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Honda Plans to Enter Battery-Car Race With Electric Fit in 2012

Honda Motor Co.'s Fit electric vehicle concept is revealed at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles. Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images
Honda Motor Co.'s Fit electric vehicle concept is revealed at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles. Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co., the first automaker to sell hybrid cars in the U.S., plans to enter the battery-vehicle market with an electric Fit subcompact in 2012 after hesitating to join in the competition.

Road tests of the lithium-ion-powered hatchback begin next year, John Mendel, Honda’s U.S. executive vice president, said today in an interview. He declined to say how much the car will cost when it goes on sale to consumers. Honda said it expects a range of about 100 miles (160 kilometers) between charges.

“An electric vehicle must offer great utility and be fun to drive,” President Takanobu Ito told reporters at the Los Angeles Auto Show today. Electric Fits will be sold in the U.S. and other global markets, and volume “will be small,” he said, without elaborating.

Honda has expressed concern that electric cars wouldn’t meet consumer expectations for cost and convenience. The Tokyo-based company, which started selling Insight hybrids in the U.S. in 1999, is among the last of the world’s largest automakers to announce plans for a vehicle powered solely by batteries.

Honda still sees hydrogen-powered models such as its Clarity sedan as the “ultimate” solution, Ito said.

By comparison, Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn has said sales of rechargeable autos may reach 10 percent of global volume by 2020.

For Honda, “the Fit is a good choice because it is a highly regarded vehicle with enough interior space to add a battery without compromising its utility,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for industry researcher Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California.

The model may “work well for fleets with predetermined routes like mail trucks and delivery trucks, especially because of the reconfigurable interior,” Brauer said.

Honda’s U.S. unit is based in Torrance, California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kae Inoue at kinoue@bloomberg.net

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