While global car sales continue their slump, hybrid sales in the Land of the Rising Sun have exploded with the release of two new entries from the country's largest automakers. But while the 2010 Toyota Prius is a sure winner for Japan's largest automaker, the 2010 Honda Insight's continued success isn't guaranteed.
In order to capitalize on its recent hybrid success, Honda will launch three low-cost gas-electric hybrids by 2012, starting with the CR-Z next year. But the biggest news may be that Japan's number two automaker has moved up the launch of the Honda Fit hybrid due to the current demand for hybrids.
Japan's Nikkei business daily is reporting that Honda will release a hybrid version of the Fit by fall of 2010, a year and a half sooner than initially planned. The Nikkei also claims that Honda will aim to sell the Fit hybrid for about 1.5 million yen ($15,800) in Japan, and expects annual sales to top 50,000 vehicles. The 2009 Honda Fit starts at about 1.2 million yen ($12,600) in Japan.
In the U.S., the Fit starts at $15,420 after destination charges. Honda will be hard-pressed to raise the price of the Fit hybrid too much higher than that, as the 2010 Insight starts at $20,470 after destination charges. Raising Fit hybrid prices too much here in the U.S. would likely incite cannibalization of Insight sales.
Honda spokesman Akemi Ando said Honda has not decided on a timetable for release, pricing or sales targets for the Fit hybrid.