Honda really started the whole hybrid thing even before Toyota brought the Prius to market, but the leader soon became the follower. Its first hybrid, the original Insight, was too weird for most people to take seriously. The first Civic Hybrid suffered from myriad technical issues that left buyers wishing they had chosen something else to drive. The CR-Z hybrid sports car had such anemic performance that no one wanted it.
Time and again, Honda sought to bring hybrid cars to market, but sales never exceeded a trickle. The cars just weren’t very good. “[There] was a period where Honda went into a lull,” Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific, says. “They lost the spirit of innovation they were known for.”
Now Honda says it is ready to try again with the 2017 Accord Hybrid. “This Accord Hybrid is at the forefront for our vision for Honda’s advanced environmental lineup of vehicles,” Jeff Conrad, general manager of the Honda brand, told journalists last week. “It’s the first step in our plan to create a true volume sales pillar for electrified vehicles of all kinds: hybrids, plug-ins, battery electrics and fuel cells.”
The 2017 Accord Hybrid will lead the way into Honda’s future, which will soon include multiple versions of the all new Clarity. That car, due in showrooms next year, will offer a hydrogen fuel cell version as well as plug-in hybrid and all electric models. Honda has more plug-in hybrids planned for the near future as well.
One of the Accord Hybrid’s main competitors will be the new Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, a car that borrows heavily from the technology developed for the Chevy Volt. In fact, it has almost everything the Volt has except a place to plug it in. The Malibu Hybrid manages an impressive 47 mpg city/46 mpg highway. The Accord Hybrid upstages those numbers with some pretty extraordinary numbers of its own: 50 mpg city/47 highway.
Despite historically low gasoline prices, Jeff Conrad says, “The market is mature” for alternative-powertrain vehicles. Honda is targeting 30,000 sales a year. The previous version of the Accord Hybrid attracted only 25,030 customers during 2014 and 2015. That car was built in Marysville, Ohio. The new car will be built at Honda’s Sayama plant in Japan.
Source: Automotive News Photo credit: Honda