Honda’s half-hearted approach to hybrids is about to be shaken up, possibly leading to the development of a hybrid system that goes beyond Honda’s traditional integrated motor assist (IMA) system. Automotive News [sub] reports that Honda CEO, Takanobu Ito has told his Research and Development staff to develop a hybrid which beats the Toyota Prius in fuel economy. Or else. This development probably has something to do the failure of the Honda Insight (Prius sales in 2009 were 139,682. Insight sales for the same period: 20,572); as Honda Executive VP, John Mendel said “Are we happy with how sales are going? No, we’re not happy.” Mr Ito made it clear that Honda’s hybrid line up is a top priority. “We want to develop and expand our hybrids,” said Ito. “We made some major sacrifices to shift people and resources to do that.”
TTAC has reported on some of the problems plaguing Honda’s hybrids, especially the recently-announced CR-Z, which was designed to be a sporty hybrid aimed at enthusiasts, and can be had with a manual transmission. However, choosing the manual transmission results in a major drop in fuel economy, which kind of defies the point of having a hybrid. The manual transmission gives 31/37mpg. Whereas, the CVT gearbox gives 36/38mpg. To give some extra perspective, a Mini Cooper with a manual transmission, gets 28/37mpg without any hybrid trickery. In a world where Toyota’s reliability is being called into question and Honda’s fuel economy is now looking rather suspect, it’s clear that nothing stands still in the world of cars. And with Hyundai poised to bring its own hybrids to the US market, Honda will have to scramble to stay ahead.