-- Honda unveiled an "affordable" hybrid family car at the Paris Motor Show on Thursday to challenge the success of rival Toyota Motor tm.
Honda described the white car which it showed off for the first time in Paris as a concept version of the production model that will be unveiled in January.
Honda Motor hmc CEO Takeo Fukui says the gasoline-electric Insight will hit the world market early next year. The plan is to sell 200,000 annually worldwide, half of them in North America. Insight's expected to start about $20,000. The Toyota Prius starts at about $23,000.
Honda hasn't announced fuel economy numbers yet. The Prius is rated by the U.S. government at 48 miles per gallon in town, 45 mpg on the highway and 46 mpg in combined driving.
Honda designed the Insight strictly as a hybrid hatchback. There is no gasoline-only version. It will be manufactured at Honda's Suzuka, Japan, factory.
The small, five-passenger hatchback is named after Honda's original Insight hybrid — a radical two-seater that went on sale in the U.S. in December 1999, the first time a major automaker sold a gasoline-electric hybrid in America. Toyota followed about six months later with the Prius. That two-seat Insight has been discontinued.
Honda won't stop its hybrid rollout with Insight. Next up is a hybrid based on the CR-Z sports car first shown at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, though not timetable has been announced. A hybrid version of the Fit small car is in the wings and the Civic hybrid will be updated in 2009.
Honda won't stop its hybrid rollout with Insight. Next up is a hybrid based on the CR-Z sports car first shown at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. It's meant for the U.S. market "in a few years" is all Honda will say. A hybrid version of the Fit small car is in the wings, but that's for overseas markets only; no plans for a U.S. version. The Civic hybrid on sale in the U.S. now was mildly updated along with the entire '09 Civic line, on sale since late August. Honda says there are no changes to the Civic hybrid drivetrain.
Honda's hybrid system is quite different from the one used by Toyota and Ford Motor. Honda's so-called Integrated Motor Assist relies on a small, fuel-efficient gasoline engine all the time, adding the power of a built-in electric motor when the gasoline engine needs more power, such as when passing or driving in the mountains.
The Toyota and Ford systems rely first on their electric motors, then start and begin adding power from their gasoline engines as the electric runs out of steam. That usually happens by 10 mph, but driven carefully, the Toyota/Ford style hybrids can run up to 30 mph or more solely on battery power.