By on June 15, 2009

Bloomberg reports that Honda has dialed-back its US sales predictions for the Insight hybrid by a third. “First-year Sales of Honda’s gasoline-electric Insight, which debuted at U.S. dealerships in late March, may be between 50,000 and 60,000 units, John Mendel, the company’s U.S. executive vice president, said in a June 11 interview at Honda’s U.S. headquarters in Torrance. ‘I don’t think we’ll get to 90,000.'” (Bloomberg sat on this story for four days?) Apparently, Mendel forgot to explain the discrepancy between expectation and reality—so Hizzoner’s family firm did it for him . . .

“Gasoline prices in the U.S. have fallen 35 percent over the past year, eroding demand for fuel-efficient cars, even as the overall market has plunged 37 percent due to the recession. Toyota has cut the base price of the Prius by $1,000 to compete with the Insight.”

Spin please?

“Hybrid sales in the U.S. fell 38 percent through May to 100,337 units, just ahead of the market’s overall 37 percent drop, based on data compiled by Bloomberg News.”

Official spin please?

“Demand for Insight should pick up later in the year as the recession eases and fuel prices increase,” Mendel said.

Or, dare we say it, not. Oh, and does this tell us anything about the Chevrolet Volt’s prospects?

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51 Comments on “Honda Insight a Flop?...”


  • avatar
    superbadd75

    As long as gas is cheap, hybrids aren’t going to fly off the lot. No worry for Honda, it’s going to get more expensive as the economy recovers. In the meantime they’re going to have to discount their less efficient models to get them off the lot, and when gas starts pushing $3.50 a gallon, they’ll see the hybrid shoppers again.

    That said, they should have followed the original recipe of the 1st Insight, and made it a small, lightweight commuter instead of a Civic Hybrid sales cannibal.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Gas is nearly back up to $3.00 per gallon in upstate, NY and it’s only June. If this trend continues expect to see the sales of this hybrid to ramp up towards the third quarter of this year.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Perhaps the Insight’s sales have something to do with how terminally boring it looks? It makes the new Prius seem like an exotic car.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Well if I’m a git and planning to buy a hybrid, thinking they are the ultimate planet and gas savers, i would just for using sheer logic go for a Prius, although in real life i hate the thing. The Honda is a new product, still in its first year as opposed to the Prius which has sold a million units and some change . Ultimately, Toyota will have a tad more experience thus offering a better ownership experience.and with a cheaper price just to meet the Insight, it’s a sure thing that they will not sell the forecast number.

    perhaps they never thought of the Prius’ price sacrifice when planning. but i think it’s too early to call it a Flop, it has a certain amount of appeal…

    anyway, i think Hybrids are boring and not as efficient as they could be…. not to mention that the performance and driving experience is dull.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    Wonder how the Insight would sell if they offered it in a non-hybrid form using the Civic Engine and a more performance tuned suspension. Hmmmm. Yes, Honda has the Fit but is missing the boat for wagon/hatchback offerings within the Civic and Accord carlines. Look at Hyundai bringing the Elantra Touring wagon to the states….

  • avatar

    Picking up from what Ronman says, if someone asks me what to buy, and they insist on a hybrid, although my gut vastly prefers HOnda to Toyota, I have to tell them that the Prius has a decade-plus track record of bombproof reliability.

    But I did tell my brother to consider a Civic with straight ICE, because of the much cheaper purchase price and the fact that gas would have to go up a lot before he’d make up that difference in savings. (I also told him to consider a Porsche, but that definitely fell on deaf ears as I knew it would.) He bought the Prius, and loves getting two and a half times the gas mileage his Passat AWD was getting on the way to work.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Did the InSite have to look like the Pruis as it does for it’s MPG? They look too much alike, and kind of ugly IMO. Plus I wouldn’t want one as I wouldn’t want to have to put a “I’m saving the Earth because I care more” bumper sticker on like a neighbor has on his Prius.

  • avatar
    sellfone

    My boss at work has been contemplating the purchase of a hybrid for close to a year, and he patiently waited for this new Insight to come out (he’s a Honda guy). He test drove it and was thoroghly disappointed. He said it felt cheap, insubstantial and “tinny”. Then he drove a new 2nd gen Prius (not the just coming out 3rd gen), loved it, and bought it. Also, I have yet to see one of the Insight on the road yet.

    Maybe this is what’s causing Honda to lower their sales expectations.

  • avatar

    Even thought this Insight is new the basic technology has been under the hoods of Hondas for years now. So I wouldn’t be to worried about reliability. The Prius is first year of a new generation so it could be problematic as well (although past models have not been).

    I think the Insight’s problem may be that it’s a bit weird inside and kind of flimsy looking. Plus it doesn’t win the MPG contest.

    Also, I’d like to see them offer a manual again. If nothing more than to set it apart from the Prius. I sometimes think I should have bought the original Civic hybrid when it was offered with a stick.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    Maybe because regardless of gas prices, Americans hate cheap, tinny, crappy cars?

    I mean, other than enviro paranoia, is there any reason to buy the Insight? It has a useless back seat, it’s loud, it’s slow, and it’s not even particularly refined. For 37 mpg… about 4-5 better than what your average family sedan (which will outperform it, be far more comfortable, handle better, and likely last longer) can do?

    Why don’t they hand out “stupid” bumper stickers to go along with this?

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I think it looks great, so I’m going to go with pricing as the culprit. I think Honda expected the Prius to cost more and the Insight to cost less.

  • avatar
    ragtopman

    The only way these hybrid vehicles will make any difference in “saving the planet” is if they were available to the masses who are just getting by paycheck to paycheck.

    They’re not. Probably never will be.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Almost as good as a Prius for a little less money! Not a compelling selling proposition. The Insight is smaller and gets worse gas mileage than a Prius, yet the price difference is in the noise.

    Gong.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I’ll say it again.
    It is overpriced. The widely mentioned $2000 hybrid price, added to the base price of the platform mate Fit would be $16,800.
    $19,800 base? Sorry.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    If it were possible to use the Cash for Clunkers bill to buy one of these it would be worth it. But the politically charged rules they are imposing won’t allow it, even though it will probably be built in the US with majority content from NA

  • avatar
    menno

    I was somewhat shocked at the extreme opinion given of the Insight by Jeremy Clarkson, whom I think it is dolt re: hybrid cars anyway…

    Then I went to look at the car in the metal. I really wanted to like it – since the Prius really could use some good competition to keep Toyota on their toes. Plus, I hear good things about the reliability of Honda cars.

    Wow. What a cheap, cramped, tinny, piece of shit.

    I didn’t bother to even drive it.

    C’mon Honda. I was expecting a car to compete with the Prius.

    Take the FCX sheetmetal and shrink it to 9/10th, put the larger 1.5 engine it it with the IMA from this thing and bring it out as a new new Insight.

    Then you might have something.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    It’s not gas prices, it’s the fact that it looks like a Prius, is basically he same price as a Prius, yet is inferior to the Prius in nearly every way. I mean it looks like Honda tried to half-ass a cut-rate Prius and got caught.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Noisy? Perhaps, but,
    assuming the hard data is trustworthy, C&D latest issue posts interior noise measurements in the tested Insight as lower at 70mph cruise than the Prius.
    They did complain that the 4-cyl is coarse for a Honda motor.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    This is right out of the worst of the GM playbook: Almost as good as a Toyota, and a little cheaper!

  • avatar
    BuckD

    I haven’t driven one, but it does seem like a de-contented version of the Prius, and it’s every bit as ugly. I dearly wish we could get more awesome Euro-diesels in the USA. Why must I suffer for your ignorance, American consumer?

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I chalk the initial failure of the Insight up to the continuing failure of Honda to design themselves a car out of wet paper bag. The new Accord is bloated, not attractive and has scant to no resembelence to the youthful Accords of past. The Pilot is a CUV trying to look too much truck like at a time when nobody wants a truck look. The Ridgeline?!?!? The Civic and Fit are the only two offerings that resemble the Honda I grew into loving. The Odyssey is a hands down class leader, but look at Chrysler for a reason you need more than just a minivan. Don’t even get me started on Acura. How you can take a beautiful TL and hit it so hard with the ugly stick is beyond me. Not that I have any love for Toyota’s current lineup, but Honda’s fumbles very well might have me looking at a Fusion in my future. 10 years ago I would’ve called you crazy if you’d have said I’d consider a Ford.

  • avatar
    zaitcev

    So let’s see:
    – the 0-60 times are better than Prius, yet bloggers complain that Insight is “slow”
    – the noise levels are better than in Prius, yet reviewers complain that it’s “noisy”
    Also, so many people use the word “tinny”. Anyone on the blog wants to check their IPs?

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @Zaitcev:

    0-60 on the 2010 Prius is 1 second better from 0-60. Still slow compared to a Fit.

    The Noise levels are way worse then the Prius. That’s been well established.

    Tinny… try driving it and a 22k car…. Just about anything else on the market is going to be more refined

  • avatar
    cdotson

    The Odyssey is a hands down class leader, but look at Chrysler for a reason you need more than just a minivan

    200k: Look at Chrysler as a reason that calling the Odyssey a class leader isn’t saying much. Data I’ve seen indicates that the Odyssey is still among the most problematic Hondas that can be bought, but minivans in general seem to be equally problematic.

    zaticev: Noting the Insight as “tinny” and “noisy” when objective dBA measurements indicate the Insight is quieter than another vehicle says that there is a definitive noise quality problem. Reducing NVH means reducing noise, vibration, and harshness. That doesn’t mean pegging the lowest dBA rating; it means making the noise less and less harsh. It’s a point where the subjective is far more important than the objective data.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    I’m in the small camp of people that thinks the 2005 Prius is pretty and looks better than the 2010 Prius.

    Even then I don’t think this new Insight is as good looking as the 2005 Prius. Take that as a small insult or a big one.

    Worse gas mileage, presumably worse reliability. It would have to be significantly cheaper than a Prius for me to consider it.

    Configuring 2010 models on honda.com and toyota.com gives me

    Corolla $17k
    Matrix $19k
    Insight $20.5k
    Prius $23k

    Since the new Insight has less passenger room than even the corolla but has more cargo space than the corolla I’d call it functionally better (I’m assuming it has a hatch just like the Prius it copied).

    Given all that I would have to see the new insight 2 or 3 thousand dollars cheaper than it is listed on the website today before I’d even bother to test drive it.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    And yet Toyota has a wait list for the 2010 Pious

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    The Insight is inferior to the Prius. It’s smaller, gets worse mileage, and emits more CO2 gases. That’s it’s problem, even though it’s a bit cheaper.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    carlisimo: “I think Honda expected the Prius to cost more and the Insight to cost less.”Toyota supposedly waited on pricing the 2010 Prius until after Insight pricing came out. If true, I’m guessing the gamble paid off. The Insight is priced too close to the base 2010 Prius and too far away from the Fit. As much as the new version is better than the original, Honda may still have blown it a second time with the Insight.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    What this tells us is that anything that is not a prius will not be a successful hybrid. There is no good reason why this vehicle shouldn’t be competitive against the prius. Quibble all you want about mpg’s, but when a vehicle is returning 40+ compared to passenger cars that are barely returning over 30 mpg is this even a sensible argument?

  • avatar
    sellfone

    What this tells us is that anything that is not a prius will not be a successful hybrid. There is no good reason why this vehicle shouldn’t be competitive against the prius. Quibble all you want about mpg’s, but when a vehicle is returning 40+ compared to passenger cars that are barely returning over 30 mpg is this even a sensible argument?

    While it does appear that any hybrid that is not a Prius is not successful, I don’t think it is a result of the lower MPG in this case. That’s not what is killing sales of the Insight. From the couple of first hand experiences with this new Insight mentioned here, it seems that the problem is that it feels like a crapbox when directly compared to the (even outgoing 2nd gen) Prius.

    Give a buyer a reason to NOT buy the Prius, and maybe he/she won’t. So far, that hasn’t happened.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    I haven’t driven one, but isn’t it a little early to be calling it a flop ? Remember how long Honda has been in the car business ? And look what they have done. They can do whatever they put their mind to, it seems- unless they give up. Time is on their side. Prius is on Gen3. Insight is Gen 1-1/2. They will catch up.

  • avatar
    grimm

    Steve_S

    Heh Heh you said Pious…. Heh heh heh… That’s funny! ;-)

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Honda should have gone for the low-hanging fruit and made the Insight a separate line, with a coupe, convertible, compact pickup, and wagon. I do wish someone would come out with a hybrid wagon (not SUV or crossover).

  • avatar

    So if the Insight is so bad, why’s it the top selling car in Japan?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Even thought this Insight is new the basic technology has been under the hoods of Hondas for years now. So I wouldn’t be to worried about reliability.

    Honda has had trouble with the IMA CVT transmission as well as less-than-Toyota battery life expectancy.

    I think the Insight’s problem may be that it’s a bit weird inside and kind of flimsy looking. Plus it doesn’t win the MPG contest.

    The latter point is probably the bigger, but what people ignore is that a) the Prius already has market intertia and b) the Prius would outsell the Insight for the same reason the Camry outsells the Accord: it “just works” for more people.

    It’s a slightly bigger, more comfy, less compromised car for—effectively—the same price.

    I sometimes think I should have bought the original Civic hybrid when it was offered with a stick.

    The manual-equipped hybrids have all been much harder on their batteries than the CVTs were. People just aren’t as good as machines at powertrain management.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    The problem is the number of people who WANT a hybrid is incredibly small relative to the overall market size, and for the most part, they all want a Prius, because it screams “HYBRID”.

    Every other one fails because nobody really wants it in the first place, and everyone who wants a hybrid makes sure they get a prius so everyone knows they have a hybrid and are super-awesome earth saving sunshine and unicorns people.

    Simple as that.

    Still won’t stop the US government from trying to make us all drive cars like this POS Insight….

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Sellfone, judging by the reviews of the 3rd gen prius, that vehicle isn’t too far removed from the crapbox feel either.

    A unsuccessful insight does not bode well for the hybrid movement. It only discourages other manufacturers from bringing their hybrids to the market, especially if they’ll see no return on the millions spent in developing it.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Data I’ve seen indicates that the Odyssey is still among the most problematic Hondas that can be bought, but minivans in general seem to be equally problematic.

    I’ve found minivan people to be extremely intolerant of problems, and not at all willing to fix them. After all, these aren’t vanity vehicles (aside from, say, the R-Class) and there’s no ego-saving acceptance of the “heritage ownership experience”.

    Much like full-size vans, they’re also vehicles that don’t get a lot of love, and do have to do a lot of work. They’re not being raced, but they are being loaded with a thousand pounds of people and stuff and driven stop-and-go in awful weather. The duty cycle of the average Caravan or Sienna would see Europe’s Finest shedding parts.

  • avatar
    petrolhead85

    I agree with all the commenters who’ve said the Insight is just too pricy. I went down to our local Honda dealer to take a look at them, and was really surprised at how cheap it looked and felt.

    You can compare the Insight to the Prius all you want, but an even more similar car is sold on the same lot, the Honda Fit. Think about it. The Fit is about the same size as the Insight, has about the same performance as the Insight, and I’m willing to bet that the real world fuel economy wont be all that different between the two. Certainly not enough to justify the price difference between the two (here in Canada it’s about $7k – 10k).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    So if the Insight is so bad, why’s it the top selling car in Japan?

    I don’t think the Insight is bad as much as it’s not quite to North American preference. It’s also cheaper by a wider margin (in Japan) and doesn’t face the uphill battle for name recognition.

    I like the car; it feels lighter on it’s feet than the Prius and is a little more urban-friendly. I don’t necessarily think that tinniness is a bad thing, mostly because every car I’ve ever been in that had a solid “thunk” to the doors was a rolling money pit. Making a door slam is easy, and too many people put too much faith in it. My Fit is tinny, as was my old Corolla, but they were bulletproof. My Saab sounded like a bank vault but cost thousands a year to keep up.

    Were it a little cheaper, and if I didn’t trust the Prius’ mechanicals more, I’d choose one. Honda just needs to be persistent

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I’m sorry, but a new introduction is on track to sell 60,000 units ($1.2Billion!) and is the best selling car in Japan, and that’s a FLOP?

    I’m betting GM, Ford and Fiatsler would kill for a couple flops like the Insight.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Think I’ll just advise my sister to keep her 1997 Tercel. Gets almost as good fuel economy is and is very much paid for. Same goes for my mother’s 2003 Corolla…loaded with leather and every other feature they offered, it was still less than a Prius costs (granted, it was 2003) and offers somewhat of a personality with nearly the same fuel economy. That’s why I’m seriously contemplating replacing my washboard 2003 Jeep Liberty (if I get 17 MPG, I’m lucky) to a 2007 Corolla for sale here. Prius/Insights aren’t even within my scope of review.

  • avatar
    grimm

    I would really love to see a hybrid based on a VW TDI drivetrain… Talk about a win, win, proposition. European style and solid feel with a super economical, and ecologically friendly, and more powerful diesel powerplant backed up by an electrical engine and battery system….and what the heck, throw a solar panel on the roof so it can recharge itself while parked! Win, Win, Win, Win, WIN!

  • avatar
    jose carlos

    As a mechanical engineer was have been somehow interested in the hybrid technology and even considering one myself. It is the integration of motor/engine, the planetary gear of Prius. In the paper it is compelling. But test driving the Prius mk2 was a disappointment: a car poorly executed for the price (rattles everywhere) and compromised (braking, handling) though I loved the response of the drive train. And at some stage it somehow refused to go any further. Probably some glitch in the OS but not much promising! The Civic hybrid is a vastly better executed vehicle (it goes like a car) though with appalling looks for my taste. But this Insight is a car cheaply made. It shows and feels so. The cheapest cars on the market are as good. So I am not surprised they sell in few numbers. Actually I have not seen one on the road. So I better keep driving my other kind of hybrid: one that burns gas and rubber.

  • avatar
    don1967

    The best way Honda can compete with the Toyota Prius is to discontinue the Insight and get back to building real cars. Now.

    Sorry treehuggers and goofy golf cart lovers, but the price of oil is not likely returning to 2008 levels for a long, long time.

    The “normal” inflation-adjusted price of oil over the past 60 years has been $20-$40 per barrel. That’s right… the real cost of oil hasn’t actually changed much over 60 years.

    The only exceptions were two enormous price bubbles, the second of which is currently in its dying stages – a classic dead-cat bounce – as we speak.

    http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/images/charts/Oil/Inflation_Adj_Oil_Prices_Chart.htm

    People who insist that this time things are different (ie: Peak Oil Theory, Global Warming, etc.) are the same ones who are still waiting for The New Economy to resurrect their dot-com stocks and make them instantly rich.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    People who insist that this time things are different (ie: Peak Oil Theory, Global Warming, etc.) are the same ones who are still waiting for The New Economy to resurrect their dot-com stocks and make them instantly rich.

    So you must subscribe to the Infinite Oil Theory? Or how about science in general?

  • avatar
    IMAdriver

    I just finished a 330 mile trip across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois today in our new Insight. Average mpg @ 70 mph, with A/C set to auto at 70-74 F (varied as needed), was 46.8 with cruise. 46.8, with an average of 48-50 (as high as 58 mpg) on surface roads and freeway combined in minimal to moderate traffic, on average. These numbers are from my wife, who is not a hypermiler by any means. Say what you want, our experience is well-above EPA numbers, and our vehicle was surprisingly quiet for what I expected on out first long trip. Over the 2K miles we’ve had the Insight, we’ve encountered no rattles or issues with assembly or workmanship.
    I agree that the price is too high and will hurt sales. With oil over $70 and climbing, contrary to what don1967 implies, the sales potential of the hybrid is very promising.

  • avatar
    Norma

    “For 37 mpg… about 4-5 better than what your average family sedan ”

    I’ll be surprised that there’s any mid-sized family sedan currently available that can have a life-time economy average of 32-33 mpg.
    I can only think of Jetta TDI and Corolla which may exceed an average of 30 mpg. But both are small sedans.

  • avatar
    don1967

    So you must subscribe to the Infinite Oil Theory? Or how about science in general?

    Do you mean science or the Al Gore bandwagon?

    Science says the world will likely run out of petroleum someday. It also says that the earth’s climate never stays the same, and that the sun will eventually explode. Science considers all data, not just the data it likes, and it never stops questioning itself.

    Al Gore says we should latch onto one particular theory and one set of statistics. We should also mock the dissenting opinion, rather than engage it in rational debate. Of course, you already know that, don’t you?

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Science says the world will likely run out of petroleum someday. It also says that the earth’s climate never stays the same, and that the sun will eventually explode. Science considers all data, not just the data it likes, and it never stops questioning itself.

    That someday is reasonably predictable given accurate reserve figures.

    Also, science is actually fairly close to the “al gore theory”. You may want to peruse this entire thread before heading down that path:

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/omb-memo-criticizes-epa-co2-ruling/

  • avatar
    IMAdriver

    It also depends on how one feels about high gas prices. I’m not a tree hugger, but I’d rather pay more for gas if the taxes went to my own country rather than some middle eastern nation that hates my country and myself. The less gas I use, the better in this case.

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