Back in May I reported that Honda had brought forward the launch date for a hybrid version of its popular Fit subcompact to late 2010. It seems the rumors were right. Today, Honda said it will start selling hybrid Fits by the end of 2010. Honda also gave a date for the launch of the eagerly awaited CR-Z sporty hybrid model, which will debut in February. Both cars will use a similar hybrid system to the one used in the Insight, launched earlier this year, and the Civic hybrid.
How well the new models will do is hard to call. The Fit, in particular, may compete with the Insight for sales. The Insight, meanwhile, is showing how tricky projections can be. Before its launch, Honda was looking to sell around 200,000 Insights a year with the U.S. accounting for about 100,000 with the rest split between Japan and Europe. So far, U.S. sales, have fallen short but the car is hotter than expected in Japan where government incentives—not to mention higher gas prices—are boosting hybrid sales. After its launch the Insight was the best selling car in Japan (excluding mini-vehicles, a first for a hybrid, although it lost its crown last month to the new Toyota Prius.
Speaking in Tokyo today, Honda’s new chief Takanobu Ito woudldn’t say how much the Fit and CR-Z hybrids will cost but said both models would be “affordable”. Ito also revealed that Honda is developing larger hybrids that will use a different, more powerful hybrid system than the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system used in its current models. Ito said a two-motor system is under development for medium and larger models, although he declined to give specifics. Asked what that means for Honda’s clean diesel plans, he admitted that while Honda has diesel technology that meets the strictest emissions standards, its high cost remains a problem. Like Toyota, Honda is favoring hybrids across its lineup.