One of the most titanic battles since Godzilla vs. Mothra is about to unfold in Japan. Honda might have been on top in sending the Insight, the first gas-electric hybrid to the U.S. back in 1999, but the Prius evolved into the undisputed King of Green.Honda, still doing the slow burn from being left at the starting gate, has decided to do battle and try to make a monster move against Toyota.
Company president Takeo Fukai says Honda is investing heavily in hybrids and insists the battle “has just begun.” The technology’s first phase was all about cultivating a green image, Fukui says. The next phase will emphasize making the vehicles more affordable and fuel efficient, he says, and Honda has two cars in the pipeline that he promises will challenge Toyota’s clean and green supremacy.
Kind of strange that the Ã¢â‚¬Å“first phaseÃ¢â‚¬Â has lasted eight years, but so be it. It seems that FukaiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“second phaseÃ¢â‚¬Â is starting now.Unfortunately it looks like the Honda monster is headed for a crushing blow if statistics, perception and common sense play any role.
It is apparent, in most minds, that if you say Ã¢â‚¬Å“name a hybridÃ¢â‚¬Â, Prius will be the first answer to roll off the tongue. As a matter of fact almost 80% of all hybrids sold in the US in November were ToyotaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. To make FukaiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s task even more daunting are the figurers that show HondaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only accounted for one in ten hybrids sold, with sales so anemic that the company has discounted both the Insight and Accord hybrids. Even with discounting, the Prius still shows a lower sticker price then its Honda competitors.
Obviously Fukai is the Don Quixote of Japan and sure that 10% of HondaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sales will be of the hybrid variety by 2010. That 10% translates into a large 400,000 units a year. Even if Honda was able to accomplish that, Toyota is countering with their goal of selling 1,000,000 hybrids a year.
Undaunted, Fukai seems to have an antidote. Honda will offer a subcompact hybrid in 2009. It will feature a smaller, lighter engine to improve fuel economy and a lower price than the Civic hybrid.
Honda also plans to launch a hybrid sports car based on the CR-Z Concept unveiled earlier this year at the Tokyo Auto Show and headed to the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.
Hopefully Godzilla and Mothra will not do battle on the rooftop of Cobo Hall.
Honda CR-Z Concept