MINNEAPOLIS — Does this market really need a hybrid sedan?
It doesn't matter. Honda has one in the redesigned Insight, and its dealers will have to sell it in a market that is shrinking for sedans and getting more crowded for hybrids.
For Honda, that means finding the 2019 Insight a patch of real estate where it doesn't cannibalize Honda's Accord Hybrid or Clarity plug-in hybrid, and where it can compete well against the Toyota Prius and challengers such as Hyundai's Ioniq family and the Kia Niro.
The tight spot has Honda targeting the Insight, which is priced below the Accord and Clarity, at younger buyers who haven't begun families and are described as "style-, image- and eco-conscious." The automaker is trying to position the Insight to avoid turf battles with its hybrid sedans and the unelectrified Civic, whose highway fuel economy is estimated at 42 mpg.
Honda has committed at the corporate level to far greater electrification across its lineup, seeking to have two-thirds of its global vehicle sales come from electrified vehicles by 2030, with a faster ramp-up in Europe and more electrified variants of its core nameplates.
But like other automakers facing stricter regulations across the globe, it faces a delicate task in marketing its green vehicles to U.S. customers who have shown more interest in size, utility and driving dynamics than fuel economy.
The Insight, for its part, has a poor record of breaking through. Though it was the first gasoline-electric hybrid sold in the U.S., the nameplate was quickly eclipsed by the Prius as a volume seller and a status symbol.
The 2019 Insight, Honda says, will be the entry point to its expanding electrified lineup. The Accord Hybrid, on the other hand, is costlier, larger and directed at young families. The Clarity plug-in variant, sitting at the top of Honda's hybrid totem pole, is meant for an older buyer profile.
For younger consumers, Honda says the Insight is a more sophisticated, refined alternative to the "youthful, sporty Civic." The automaker believes it has found a home for the Insight between the upper end of the Civic and the lower end of the Accord, said Jay Joseph, American Honda's head of product planning, during a media presentation in Minneapolis. The premise is that it's a capable, stylish sedan that happens to be a hybrid, capable of 55 mpg in the city and combined fuel economy of 52 mpg. (The top trim gets 48 mpg combined.)