DETROIT -- Acura dealers grieving over the cancellation of plans for V-8s and rear-wheel-drive vehicles may be heartened by the addition of hybrids to their lineup.
Honda Motor Co. CEO Takanobu Ito confirmed that the luxury brand will get hybrid variants. The company declined to give a time frame or say which models will get the technology.
An Acura dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity said a hybrid version of the TSX sedan is planned for the 2011 model year and two other hybrid models will follow soon after.
During an interview at the Detroit auto show, Ito said Honda has yet to complete development of a hybrid system for large vehicles.
John Mendel, American Honda Motor Co. executive vice president for auto sales, said the plan for Acura hybrids "has been around for a while." He said it was "not a quid pro quo" for losing V-8 and rear-drive vehicles that had been promised to dealers at a national meeting two years ago.
Honda executives in Japan had agreed to challenge top-tier luxury brands with V-8 and rear-drive models. But the company scuttled those plans after the economic crisis that began in the fall of 2008.
Mendel declined to give technical details or to say which vehicles would have hybrid variants, but he did say, "There will be more than one."
Using hybrids is appealing to Acura, spokesman Gary Robinson said.
"The idea of the big, bad luxury sedan with the shiniest grille has become a little uncouth," Robinson said. He noted that the Lexus RX 400h has sold well and that luxury customers are lining up for the $87,900 Fisker Karma hybrid sedan and $109,000 Tesla electric Roadster.
Robinson said Acura hasn't decided whether to use hybrid technology only to improve fuel economy or also to use electric motors to boost performance.
"Luxury is not about making compromises," he said. "The key component with the Honda [brand] hybrid has been cost, but with a luxury car we have more options."