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Honda Bumps Up Mileage Hoping to Salvage Slow-Selling Insight Hybrid

Highway fuel economy now at 44 mpg – but is that enough?

by on Oct.17, 2011

Honda has updated the interior and exterior of the 2012 Insight - but the big selling point may be the hatchbacks improved mileage.

Honda is hoping to pump some life into its slow-selling Insight hybrid for 2012 by adding more features, giving it a more high-tech appearance – and bumping up its mileage.

There’s no question the Insight needs some help.  Sales have lagged significantly below expectations for a vehicle Honda had once hoped might pose a real challenge to the gas-electric segment’s king-of-the-hill the Toyota Prius.

The question is whether the newly-updated 2012 Honda Insight – with its revised styling and 44 mpg highway rating – can lure buyers in at a time when fuel prices have retreated and conventionally powered products, such as the comparably sized Hyundai Accent, are also delivering highway numbers in excess of 40 mpg.

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Changes to the 2012 Honda Insight’s exterior include a more distinctive grille with a thin, blue accent bar to underscore its identity as one of the maker’s hybrid models.  The ’12 also features restyled front and rear bumpers and updated head and taillamps, as well as restyled wheels. Meanwhile, changes meant to improve airflow under the vehicle yield a 2% improvement in overall aerodynamics.

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Fuel Prices Up, Hybrid Sales Down

Blame the March 11 disaster. But rising hybrid prices also a factor.

by on Jun.06, 2011

Prius sales fell 51% in May and shortages were only part of the problem for Toyota.

Fuel prices are up and closing on record levels, but U.S. hybrid sales have slumped to their lowest level s in 16 months, with few signs of any imminent improvement.

Put much of the blame on the March 11 disaster in Japan that has led to a massive drop in production of key models like the Toyota Prius, the world’s best-selling hybrid, industry analysts suggest.  But soaring prices may have also been a factor.

That’s one reason why, even with a more normal supply, hybrids could continue losing ground.  There are now plenty of high-mileage alternatives on the market using diesel as well as more conventional gasoline powertrains, the latter not saddled with the hefty premium typical of hybrid vehicles.

“For those selling hybrids, it is incredibly bad luck that the Japanese earthquake and associated production disruptions occurred as gas prices were reaching their highest levels in three years,” said Lacey Plache, the chief economist at Edmunds.com.

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The March 11 earthquake and tsunami virtually shut down the Japanese auto industry for a month.  Since then, however, production has been running well below normal, especially in the home market, the only source of many key hybrids, like the Prius.  “Real and imagined supply constraints” appear to have been a key factor in the May hybrid sales slump, according to Plache.

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