Honda dangles $3,000 gift card to buyers of natural gas Civic
Honda sells the Civic CNG in 36 states at 199 of its roughly 1,040 U.S. dealerships.
Photo credit: HONDA
LOS ANGELES -- American Honda Motor Co., taking advantage of high gasoline prices in some parts of the country to pitch alternative fuels, is offering a $3,000 card to buyers of the compressed natural gas-powered Honda Civic.
Honda hopes to lure consumers to a version of the Civic compact sedan that runs on cheaper compressed natural gas.
Buyers of the compressed natural gas Civic will receive a fuel card loaded with $3,000 that can be used at public refueling stations owned by Clean Energy Fuels Corp.
Honda and Clean Energy unveiled the promotion today. The Civic is currently the only car powered by natural gas available for sale to U.S. consumers.
The offer should be especially appealing to consumers in California, where the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $4.67 today, up 50 cents in just the past week, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
Gasoline prices have spiked in California following disruptions at refineries at a time when supplies are already low because of a seasonal changeover to new blends.
The national average for an equivalent gallon of compressed natural gas, by contrast, was just $2.05 in July, American Honda said, citing the most recent figures available from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Honda's Civic CNG is also eligible for carpool-lane access in California, a major plus for commuters slogging through the congested highways of greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The car has a range of about 200 miles, takes minutes to refuel and has a base price of about $27,000.
Natural gas proponents say those attributes, in addition to the low cost of compressed natural gas compared with gasoline, give the Civic CNG an advantage over the limited range, high cost and extended recharging time of electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids.
However, Honda has struggled to boost demand for the Civic CNG. American Honda spokesman Marcos Frommer says Civic CNG sales are up from last year, but Honda sold just 1,576 units in the United States in the first nine months of the year. That's less than 1 percent of the 234,029 total Civics sold in the United States in that period.
Nissan, by contrast, sold more than 5,200 units of the Leaf EV in the same period.
American Honda's offer is to be available to every consumer who buys a Civic CNG between now and Jan. 2, 2013, and is limited only by Honda's supply of the cars, Frommer said. About 1,500 units are in inventory, he said.
Frommer said sales are affected in part by low production rates at Honda's Civic plant in Greensburg, Ind. But he conceded that the company has devoted very little of its marketing budget to promote the car.
"In the last few years we're making more of an effort to sell to retail customers" after selling the car primarily to fleets, Frommer said. "We haven't done a lot, but we feel like we have an opportunity right now because of spiking gas prices, especially in California, where you're looking at almost $5 per gallon."
American Honda, Clean Energy and the Honda dealer responsible for the sale will each contribute $1,000 to the debit card, Frommer said. Honda Division sells the Civic CNG in 36 states at 199 of its roughly 1,040 dealerships.
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