Honda Goes After The Racing Crowd

Imagine drag-racing in the backyard in a hybrid car. Honda can. The Japanese auto maker plans to take its gas-electric hybrid technology to a new crowd -- to those who aspire to tire-smoking engine performance. On Dec. 3, Honda Motor Co. (HMC ) will sell a 255-horsepower Accord hybrid that gets 30 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. The $29,000 hybrid will be faster than the stock 240-hp Accord, and it will get a 40% fuel economy boost for a $2,000 premium. Says one Honda exec: "You can have your cake and eat it, too."

That pitch may work. The company's hybrid Civic is overshadowed by Toyota's Prius because it's slower and its buyers can't make a fashion statement with the drab looks of a Civic. When Honda sells the Accord, on the other hand, its marketers will brag about 0-to-60-mph acceleration (about 6.5 seconds) that's a second faster than a regular Accord. That could draw even more attention to a hot-selling niche. "That's a smart way to do it," says AutoPacific Inc. Vice-President James N. Hall.

Indeed, bragging about 0-to-60 times will be a first for hybrid owners. If a fast and efficient Accord has enough allure, the hybrid market could get yet another turbocharge.

By David Welch in Detroit

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