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May 21, 2008

JAPAN: CEO reveals more of new Honda hybrid

Honda has announced some additional details of its planned new small hybrid to be introduced next year.

Honda has announced some additional details of its planned new small hybrid to be introduced next year.

During his mid-year address, CEO Takeo Fukui said that an official name and full product details would be announced later this year.

But he confirmed the dedicated hybrid would be offered as a five-door hatchback with seating for five, adding that a significant cost reduction in Honda’s own Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) components would result in the most affordable hybrid vehicle to date.

Honda’s IMA system has an electric motor that assists the petrol engine as needed; Toyota’s hybrid system also allows the electric motor alone to power the vehicle for short distances at low speeds (usually under 50km/h) while a planned plug-in variant due out, possibly as early as next year, will operate in electric-only mode for much longer distances at higher speeds.

Honda has so far offered a two-seat Insight hybrid coupe (now dropped) plus five-seat, four-door Civic and Accord sedan models (the latter US-only and axed there recently due to poor sales); the new car will be its first hybrid hatchback and a direct rival for Toyota’s market-leading Prius (which was a sedan in first generation form).

The new hybrid hatchback will be built at Honda’s Suzuka plant in Japan alongside the Civic hybrid. Sales will be around 200,000 a year, with 100,000 of those destined for North America.

Honda also plans to launch a unique small model based on the CR-Z sports car first shown at the 2007 Tokyo motor show as well as a Fit (Jazz) hybrid.

Including the Civic Hybrid, these four hybrid vehicles are expected to reach combined annual global sales of approximately 500,000 units.

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