As United States petrol prices topped $US2.00 per gallon in some areas, nationwide sales of Honda’s petrol-electric hybrid Insight model car reached record-breaking levels in May, the company told Associated Press (AP).

American Honda officials said that sales of the distinctively styled little two-door, two-seater coupe were up 138 per cent last month compared to May 2000.

The 903 Insight sales last month also broke the previous single-month record of 573, set in April, AP added.

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The news organisation quoted Pat Bennett, a 63-year-old retiree from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as saying that she spent only $US12 a month on petrol for her new Insight.

“I don’t fill up but maybe once a month,” she told AP. “To be honest, I don’t know what [the price of fuel] is right now because I haven’t been to the service station.”

AP said that both American Honda executives and motor industry experts say that buyers are interested in the Insight’s fuel efficiency – Honda claims as much as 68 miles per U.S. gallon on the highway – and sporty look and feel.

“With all the attention rising gas prices have received there has almost been as much attention on the Insight,” Honda spokesman Art Gatner told AP.

The Insight went on sale in the U.S. in December 1999 but it has taken time for both potential buyers and dealers to become familiar with the unusual car, AP said.

Drivers have also had to learn about the vehicle’s hybrid technology, which doesn’t require it be plugged in to a charging station like the General Motors SUV1 electric vehicle available briefly a few years before the Insight arrived.

AP added that Toyota ‘s hybrid Prius, on sale in North America since July 2000, sold 872 models in April 2001 and 1,126 in May.

Toyota launched its Estima Hybrid minivan, a world first, in Japan today and plans to build 300,000 hybrids a year by 2005.

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

The world’s car manufacturers: A financial and operating review

Electric Vehicles – prospects for battery, fuel cell and hybrid powered vehicles