Honda to launch new hybrid car in April '09

Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co. Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS

UPDATED: 8/13/08 3:30 pm EDT

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Honda Motor Co. will launch a five-door, hybrid-only car in April in North America to fight the hot-selling Toyota Prius.

The five-passenger hatchback will be priced below the Prius, Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., said Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Management Briefing Seminars here.

Honda expects to build about 200,000 of the hatchbacks globally, with about 100,000 targeted for import into North America, Colliver said. The automaker has no plans to build hybrids, including the Honda Civic hybrid sedan, in the United States, he said.

The hatchback will be slightly smaller than the Civic, the third-best-selling car in the United States through July with 234,086 sold. The Civic trails only the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord sedans.

Colliver said the new hatchback will be lighter than the Civic and priced lower than the Civic and Prius. The Civic hybrid's base price is listed at $22,600 while the Prius starts at $21,500 -- neither price includes a destination charge.

Colliver said a hybrid-only model, instead of a hybrid of an existing model such as the Civic, will appeal to a broad segment of buyers.

“For consumers who are interested in fuel economy and the environment, having a specific individual product is important to them,” Colliver said. He is an industry veteran of 45 years, including the past 15 with Honda.

Colliver said Honda also plans to move production of its Ridgeline pickup to its plant in Lincoln, Ala., to free up production space at its Alliston, Ontario, assembly plant for additional Civics. The move is planned for the third quarter.

He said Honda’s decision not to stray from its emphasis on small, fuel-efficient cars is bearing fruit in the era of $4-per-gallon gasoline. American Honda is the only major automaker whose vehicle sales are up through July, increasing 3.2 percent.

“Fuel efficiency is one of our core values,” Colliver said. “Small, efficient vehicles are not short-term strategies for Honda. They are part of a fundamental commitment that goes back to Honda’s entry into the auto industry in the 1970s.”

You can reach David Barkholz at dbarkholz@crain.com

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