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Other Makes And Modelsdiscussion of all other makes and models
Honda Motor plans to sell a low-cost, hybrid version of its popular Fit subcompact car, according to a Japanese newspaper.
Such a move would signal the car maker's long-term commitment to the fuel-sipping powertrain.
Japan's third-biggest car maker aims to sell the Fit hybrid as early as next year for about $11,800, or $1,700 more than the gasoline-only version, likely making it the world's least expensive hybrid by far, leading Japanese business daily Nihon Keizai said Wednesday.
The model could be launched in the business year starting April 2007 and would be sold globally, the newspaper said.
A Honda representative denied that the company had made any decision on whether to hybridize the Fit, but added it had the technological wherewithal to mount its hybrid system, which twins an electric motor and a conventional engine to save fuel, on most of its vehicles.
Chief Executive Takeo Fukui has long said the price premium for a hybrid over a gasoline-only car needs to fall below $1,700 for the powertrain to go mainstream.
With hybrid systems still costing car makers--and customers--thousands of dollars, Fukui has said Honda had not made a strategic decision yet to produce the gasoline-electric vehicles in large volume, unlike rival Toyota Motor, which has aggressively promoted their proliferation.
A decision to offer a hybrid version of the mass-volume Fit--Honda's best-selling model in Japan and due to debut soon in the United States--would suggest the car maker is a step closer to committing to the powertrain longer-term.
Honda also sells hybrid versions of its two best-selling cars, the Accord and Civic, at a premium of around $2,500. Honda's hybrid-only Insight coupe was the first gasoline-electric car to be sold in the United States.
Honda is developing a smaller motor and battery to reduce the hybrid's cost and weight, the Nihon Keizai said. It will twin the hybrid unit with a one-liter engine for the Fit, the paper added.
Toyota also aims to halve the production and selling cost of a hybrid system. It currently sells many of its hybrid models at a premium of about $4,200.
Honda, Toyota and Ford Motor are so far the world's sole mass-producers of hybrid passenger cars. Others like General Motors argue that hybrid systems are most suitable for large vehicles due to the added weight from the extra components.
Compact cars are also generally fuel-efficient to begin with, and the extra cost of a hybrid car may be more difficult to justify, depending on how much can be saved at the pump.
The newspaper said the Fit hybrid would have fuel economy comparable to that of the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, which the auto makers advertise in Japan as getting around 82 miles per gallon to 84 miles per gallon.
The most fuel-efficient gasoline-only Fit, with a 1.3-liter engine and continuous variable transmission, gets 56 miles per gallon.
$12,000... if they can pull this off, these things will sell like crazy.