COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Honda sees two key target buyers for the CR-Z hybrid coupe, which debuts this summer: today's tuner fans -- and yesterday's.
John Mendel, executive vice president for automobile sales at American Honda Motor Co., said research shows the CR-Z clicking with "young people and guys my age, because it's reminiscent of the CR-X, which was the ultimate tuner vehicle."
Mendel, 55, who was interviewed at an industry conference here, said the older group has fond memories of the CR-X, which was sold in the United States from 1983 to 1992. Young buyers like the CR-Z's sportiness -- much more than the practical aspects of a hybrid.
"We thought maybe the hybrid would turn the tuners off," Mendel said. "Basically, they just say, 'It's 20 extra horsepower -- what the hell.' "
Mendel said the older buyer group has heard about the CR-Z through traditional media as well as online. To reach younger buyers, Honda will add social media. Sponsoring the concert tours of musical acts with a multigenerational appeal might work with both groups, he added.
The performance emphasis will be a change for Honda, which struggled to launch the Insight hybrid sedan as a lower-priced alternative to the Toyota Prius.
Mendel said most hybrids sell on practical merits: "People view hybrids as the practical thing to do, really rational, not at all emotional, unless you have a strong green bent."