Honda Hybrid Officially Named the "Insight" to Launch
TOKYO, July 6 - Honda Motor Co
Tuesday its hybrid-engine Insight model will be the world's most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered car aimed at consumers, but admitted the market for the two-door coupe would be limited.
"At the most, we expect to sell around 1,000 vehicles per month worldwide," senior managing director Takeo Fukui told reporters.
Using a light aluminum body, the coupe can achieve 35 km per liter by Japanese fuel efficiency standards, or around twice the fuel efficiency of a comparable car with an ordinary gasoline engine. It is equivalent to about
82 miles per gallon.
The car uses both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, although the gasoline engine is its main source of power. Its aluminum structure is 40 percent lighter than car bodies made of steel, making for lower fuel
"More than anything we were aiming for the utmost in fuel efficiency." Fukui said of Honda's decision to launch only a two-door hybrid for the time being.
He added that the company would now move towards producing a hybrid car aimed at a larger section of the market.
The Insight will be launched in Japan some time around September and in the United States and Europe within the year, and will be priced at a "comparable level" to its rival, Toyota's Prius, he said.
The Prius, a passenger car, is currently the world's only mass-produced hybrid car. It achieves 28 km per liter.
The automaker sells about 1,500 Prius models per month in Japan and will begin sales in the United States and Europe next year. It has admitted that it is still making a loss on the Prius, although it say it is trying to make
the car profitable in two to three years.
Honda officials declined to comment on Insight's expected profitability, saying only that the company does not look at profitability on a "model-by-model basis."
Fukui said, however, that Honda believed the Insight cost less to build that the Prius.
The Insight's engine system also uses a new, lean-burn catalytic converter that reduces exhaust, emissions to 50 percent below stricter Japanese standards get to take effect in 2000.
The Insight, a two-door coupe, will use a combined gasoline engine and electric motor, although the gasoline engine will be its main source of power.
Its aluminum structure is 40 percent lighter than steel, helping to reduce fuel consumption.
Toyota Motor Corp's Prius is currently the world's only mass market hybrid-engine car. The automaker sells about 1,500 of the models per month in Japan.
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