TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. is not planning to bring the hybrid version of its Fit small car to North America -- for now -- amid doubts drivers will pay more for its gasoline-electric drivetrain.
The hybrid Fit went on sale in Japan today and will go to Europe early next year.
But Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo said the Japanese carmaker has held off making a decision on a U.S. debut, partly because gasoline prices there haven't risen as quickly as expected.
“We haven't decided on a U.S. launch,” Kondo said at the Fit's launch event in Tokyo. “As for the future, it's open to question. We will carefully be watching the market situation.”
Honda has wrestled with a fickle U.S. market for hybrid vehicles. While the Toyota Prius has racked up healthy sales, Honda's offerings such as the Insight and CR-Z sporty hybrid have missed expectations. Cheaper prices at the gasoline pump are one reason U.S. drivers are leery about paying more for the hybrid technology, even if it means better fuel efficiency.
Fit Chief Engineer Kohei Hitomi said Americans used to big cars probably aren't willing to pay the hybrid premium for marginal mileage gains in a compact vehicle.
“Basically, the gasoline Fit gets very good mileage as it is,” Hitomi said on the sidelines of the Fit event. “I think many Americans would be asking whether it is worth paying extra.”
In Japan, the hybrid Fit starts at 1.59 million yen ($19,275), about 29 percent more than the re-styled gasoline-only version. It delivers 70 mpg under Japan's testing cycle, compared with the non-hybrid's 57.
Honda aims to sell about 14,000 Fits a month in Japan, hybrids and nonhybrids combined. The gasoline-electric version is expected to account for 40 percent of total volume here.