Honda will reveal its new affordable family hybrid on Thursday, a model designed to double the brand's hybrid sales and move such models from image-led buys to economic ones.

The global announcement will be followed by the unveiling of the new car in concept form at next month's Paris motor show, before it goes on sale in Spring 2009.

Built on an all-new platform, it is a compact five-door hatchback, in contrast to previous four-door Civic sedan models and the pioneering Insight three-door coupe. Its styling is based on the FCX Clarity fuel cell concept already displayed at motor shows and now being leased to selected movie business customers in California.

Speaking at the European launch of Honda's new Jazz (Fit) in Frankfurt, Honda UK environmental manager John Kingston said the new model was key to Honda's future.

"It is a very important car for Honda and our future direction," he said, adding: "This is a car that will change customer perception of hybrids."

Kingston said that Honda's aim was to widen the customer base for hybrids, to allow customers to choose such cars for their economy benefits. While he wouldn't be more specific on how much more affordable the new car would be, he said that the aim was to have no price premium over traditional cars from rival manufacturers.

"This is key for us and to achieve this hybrids have to be made more affordable - the key barrier to hybrid sales is price and we want to break that barrier," he added.

The car will see major developments to the hybrid powertrain, with the key components made more compact and placed under the cargo space instead of behind the rear seats, as in the current Civic sedan IMA.

Kingston added that weight savings would be significant, while the car would also boast technology to encourage more fuel-efficient driving and improve the car's real world economy.

A new line has been created at Honda's Suzuka, Japan, plant to build the car with annual production levels rising from 70,000 to 250,000 units.

Honda is aiming at annual global sales figures of 200,000 units of the new model, with around 50% for the US.

The car will be followed by three more hybrids by 2010. These, a sports car and versions of the Civic and Jazz, are expected to boost Honda's hybrid sales to 500,000 a year.

Currently the manufacturer sells 4m cars each year but has only sold 240,000 hybrids in total since launching that first Insight nine years ago.

Andrew Charman

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