While the rest of the world is going full speed ahead to bring alternative fuel cars to market, Honda is busy eliminating them from its product mix. This week, Honda’s executive vice-president, John Mendel, announced that the company is dumping the Civic Hybrid and the compressed natural gas (CNG) models from its product lineup, according to Green Car Reports.
The Civic Hybrid was introduced in 2003 as an alternative to the Toyota Prius. It sold well at first, but Honda reportedly had problems with battery cooling and recalibrated the cars as they were brought in for service. After the cars were “fixed”, fuel economy was often worse than it was for conventional Civics with conventional gasoline engines. The word got out and sales fell off a cliff. Honda has never had the courage to fix its mistake. Now the Civic Hybrid is history and there is nothing in the pipeline to replace it until at least 2018.
Honda tried to promote the CNG cars but demand remained weak. Annual sales never topped 700 cars. “Honda has promoted CNG for many years, but customer demand remains quite small,” says Mandel. “There appears to be no real appetite on the part of competitors or policymakers to promote it. That, plus the negligible price different, mean that consumer demand just hadn’t developed as Honda hoped — and there seems little likelihood that the situation will change in coming years.”
Mandel does say that an updated Accord Hybrid will be in showrooms soon. Availability has been an issue in many parts of the country but supplies are scheduled to increase when the new, built in Japan Accord Hybrid arrives with its advanced two motor drivetrain. It is expected to exceed the 47 mpg fuel economy offered by the present car.
Mendel says the two motor system will be offered soon in another Honda model but declined to provide specifics. He also says the company will bring three new “green” cars to market by 2018, including a battery electric vehicle and new plug in hybrid.
Honda was quick out of the gate when the whole green car movement began. Its original 2 passenger Insight, released just after y2k, had excellent fuel economy from an early version of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist system. But since then, Honda gets a failing grade for bringing alternative fuel cars to market. It is completely MIA when it comes to promoting battery recharging infrastructure, battery research, or advanced plug in technology.
Instead, it is joining Toyota in pushing for fuel cell cars — a technology that has no supporting infrastructure. It’s something nobody wants, despite all the ballyhoo coming from Japan about how wonderful it is. The company has shown a complete lack of leadership in bringing affordable alternative fuel vehicles to market. Instead, Mendel says it is concentrating its efforts on new models powered by ultra-efficient gasoline engines.
Honda just doesn’t get it. They are completely tone deaf and out of step with the transportation needs of a world experiencing climate change. Their corporate timidity could possibly lead to them losing their once dominant position in the marketplace. Honda is desperately in need of some cojones in the boardroom if it wants to remain relevant among the world’s car makers.