TOKYO - Honda Motor Co. executives hint that a hybrid version of the Fit small car is in the company's plans.
The executives would not respond directly to a Japanese newspaper report last week that Honda will offer a Fit hybrid starting in April 2007. But Honda CEO Takeo Fukui says the company is developing hybrid powertrains for large and small vehicles.
If Honda produces the hybrid version, the Fit would be the smallest car sold with a gasoline-electric powertrain.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported Wednesday, Feb. 22, that Honda would price a Fit hybrid well below the least-costly hybrids now on the market. The newspaper said Honda would sell the hybrid in North America and Europe.
Honda is launching the Fit in the United States in April. The company sells the car in Europe as the Jazz.
Fukui told reporters the cost of hybrid powertrains must fall substantially before they can compete with conventional powertrains without relying on government subsidies.
"Cost is still the issue," Fukui said at the launch of a new Honda minicar for the Japanese market. "We are devoting our development efforts to solving those hurdles."
Fukui said Honda's single-motor hybrid system "is better with small cars." Hybrids' regenerative braking technologies, which capture energy lost in braking, would benefit small cars as much as large ones, he said.
Motoatsu Shiraishi, president of Honda's product development subsidiary, also made the case for a hybrid small car. "Whether it has a 4- or 5-liter engine matters less in terms of fuel savings than whether it is driven four kilometers or five kilometers," he said.
Shiraishi argued that consumers will realize greater fuel savings in cars they drive a lot, such as smaller cars used for commuting or running errands, than in large cars they drive only on weekends.