Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Insight Into Honda's Hybrid Challenge‏

Honda Insight BackImage of Honda Insight via Wikipedia

by Shaun Parker

It seems as though Honda are mounting a real challenge to Japanese rivals Toyota in the Hybrid market as their new Insight vehicle has returned impressive sales figures in its home country since launching in February.

Last week the Insight became the first hybrid at the top of Japan's best sellers list. The Japan Automobile Dealers Association ranked the Insight at the top of the tree after Honda sold 10,481 units in the month of April alone, becoming the first hybrid vehicle in history to outsell all other conventional models.

Another plus point for Honda in the domestic (Japanese) market is that they were the only brand to experience a rise in sales for the month of April compared to April 2008 - an impressive feat given the state of the global economy at present. Like so many other car manufacturers, the Japanese giants have been hit hardly by the credit crunch and resulting economic downturn. In the UK they had to close their production plant in Swindon at the start of the year and have cut pay rates by 3 per cent in order to safeguard 500 jobs.

Japan's government is currently deciding whether to go ahead with a scrap-page scheme similar to that which UK government has recently implemented. The likelihood is that the scheme will go ahead and manufacturers, such as Honda are therefore looking at increasing production output to meet demand. They had forecast that they would sell around 550,000 units in the year up to March 2010 but they now expect this to rise by up to 100,000 if the bill goes ahead.

The Honda Insight is only available in the UK with one engine type at the moment, albeit a very clean one - 1.3 IMA petrol, emitting just 105g/km CO2 setting you back just 15 pounds road tax a year, with a combined 61 miles per gallon.

The Insight undercuts nearest rival - the Toyota Prius (the world's most popular hybrid vehicle) - by almost 2,000 pounds with a starting price of just 15,490 pounds. Hybrid sales are expected to rise in the UK over the next few years despite the economic downturn and Honda look to have cornered the market with the Insight representing very good value for money and are also forecast to hold their value well in terms of depreciation - a vital car buying factor at this moment in time.

Toyota of course started the hybrid technology movement a decade ago but Honda look set to push them all the way. The new Toyota Prius hits the Japanese market next month so it will be very interesting indeed to see how they both perform in what looks like being a toe to toe battle.

Both of these Japanese big brands will be hoping that their latest hybrid offerings and the growing public consciousness of global warming will mean an increase in sales. Japanese car sales have been on the slide over the past 15 years or so, which of course has got worse over the past year because of the global economic crash.

Green cars look set to be in vogue in years to come and Honda are well set to lead the field.

Shaun Parker is an motoring journalist with many years of experience writing about the car industry. Find out more about Honda at http://www.hondainchcape.co.uk


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