Ford's new hybrids tell Toyota: Catch me if you can

Honda is going to announce that its new Insight sedan, of which a concept version will be seen at the show, will have a feature called Eco Assist to coach drivers into saving more fuel. The instrument cluster will glow green when drivers ease from stops and go light on the accelerator, and it turns blue for lead feet. A button marked "ECON" sets the car to drive in fuel-saving mode, including adjusting the air conditioner. Insight goes on sale next spring.

Ford is taking the same approach in its Fusion Hybrid with a feature called SmartGauge, which also coaches drivers to increase fuel savings.

"Each generation, these hybrids are getting better," says Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Japanese have an incredible head start over the domestics, but they (U.S. makers) can catch up with the right kind of investments."

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