Honda Insight Generates Swift Demand In Japan

February 16, 2009

Honda's timing for the re-introduction of its Insight nameplate couldn't come at a better time for the Japanese and American auto markets; both are experiencing historic lows and hemorrhaging profit. We reported that the Insight will sell in Japan at just under 2 million yen, a bit of a magic number (and psychological barrier) for the Japanese; this fact alone seems a sell for the Japanese, who have ordered the Honda Insight to the tune of 5,000 units in one week (a number higher than Honda's monthly target). Estimated MSRP for the U.S. Insight is expected to come in at less than $21,000, some $2,000 less than the Toyota Prius.

Despite its more rudimentary IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) drive system that offers precious little electric-only operation when compared with rival Toyota Prius, the new Honda Insight has charmed enthusiasts at the big auto magazines. Even the hotshoes at Car and Driver, who generally find gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles to have dull and appliance-like road manners, praised Honda in their March issue for putting some joie back in the hybrid's vivre: "the Insight drives like a Honda, with tight suspension motions, a firm ride, well-connected steering, and a no-fat musculature."

2008 Paris auto show

2008 Paris auto show

Enlarge Photo

The downside to the Insight's quest to steal the MVP title in the hybrid wars is its economy: an EPA rated 40/43 against the Prius' 48/45. Nonetheless, Car and Driver managed 46 mpg overall in their testing.

How the Insight will sell upon its U.S. April debut remains to be seen. But Honda knows how to do fun-to-drive, frugal, and cheap (that doesn't feel or act cheap). It doesn't seem a long shot that a number of U.S. buyers will gladly trade a few mpg for a low MSRP and a spunky demeanor.

[source: Detroit News]

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