Gaining Insight: Honda Begins Production of Hybrid Sedan, Challenging Market Awaits

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

The first-generation Honda Insight was a rare false-start for the company, marketed as a hatchback that had more doors than seats (three and two, respectively). Its atomic-egg styling enveloped a 67 horsepower 1.0-liter gasoline engine paired to a 10kW electric motor. The second-gen model, a more conventional car in terms of its styling and capacity, also fell a bit flat compared to the segment-leading Prius.

Honda’s betting the third time’s the charm, kicking off the mass production start of the all-new 2019 Honda Insight today at its plant in Indiana. Will this Insight electrify buyers or fizzle out? At first glance, it would at least appear they’ve got the styling right this time. Not everyone wants to shout that they’re driving a hybrid.

Part of a $61.5 million new capital investment in Indiana and Ohio, the Insight’s launch puts even more focus on Honda’s ever-expanding portfolio of electrified vehicles. The company already hawks a trio of Clarity models (plug-in, electric, and hydrogen), along with the 2019 Accord Hybrid. Your author professes confusion as to the lineup, as I thought the Clarity name would become the banner under which Honda would plunk all of its electrified family.

In any event, the new Insight is positioned between Civic and Accord in Honda’s American lineup, offering seating for five within its sedan-esque profile. Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assistive technology comes standard, as will Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to satisfy the tech crowd (of which there is a big overlap in the Venn Diagram with greenies).

Powered by the third generation of Honda’s two-motor hybrid system, the Insight has 151 net system horsepower. Its hybrid battery pack is assembled at the Marysville plant, while the Insight’s 1.5-liter gasoline engine is produced at the company’s engine facility in Anna, Ohio. The company touts a lightweight structure and claims the best power-to-weight ratio in the Insight’s class. A 55 mpg fuel economy rating is expected.

Honda Manufacturing of Indiana is one of five Honda automobile assembly plants in the States and will now produce the Insight, Civic, and CR-V on the same production line. The financial investment mentioned above included the construction of a new 19,200 square-foot building to accommodate in-house subassembly of the Insight’s front-end module. This modular approach is aimed at construction of the vehicle’s front frame and associated components, such as the radiator and cooling fan.

The new Insight marks the first time the Indiana plant is sub-assembling the front-end module in-house. The modular concept was first introduced on the 2016 Civic and is now employed for the Accord and CR-V as well. With the CR-V now being produced alongside the Insight, and these front-end modules being handy, it’s not a stretch to think we’ll see a CR-V hybrid in America before too long.

The Insight itself sold slightly north of 20,000 units in each of its first two years as a five-passenger machine. That sounds pretty good until one notes the Prius moved about 140,000 copies during each of the same calendar years. That’s not the entire Prius family; no, that’s just the similarly-sized OG Prius. The thing’s a behemoth in terms of sales, although its current polarizing style seems to have scared off a few customers.

According to HybridCars.com, Toyota’s share of the entire hybrid segment (all bodystyles) is just over 55 percent. Sales of non plug-in hybrids are down, year-to-date, as segment leaders continue to struggle. So far this year, sales of plug-in hybrids (Chevy Volt, Prius Prime, et al) are are running at about a 30,000 annual rate, slightly less than the number of F-150s Ford moves in two weeks.

The 2019 Honda Insight will appear at Honda dealerships across the nation early this summer.

[Images: Honda]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on May 14, 2018

    I can't for the life of me figure out why Honda has an Accord Hybrid, the Insight, and the Clarity plug in hybrid. In a nonexistent hybrid market, in a dying sedan market. 3 different cars. What?

  • Ghillie Ghillie on May 15, 2018

    @JimC2 “lighten up Francis”. A common response when bs is called and it can’t be backed up. Hypermilers can be a bit strange, but you still haven’t given a reference to anyone actually using an ice vest instead of aircon. And now it’s my fault that your posts are becoming abusive. Hmmm…..

    • JimC2 JimC2 on May 15, 2018

      @ghillie, there’s a web link I posted a few hours ago. Maybe you just missed it but it’s a few posts up. It’s a sarcastic “let me google that for you” link, hint hint. Maybe it was more than one guy, maybe it was just one guy doing the ice vest thing and a few dedicated hypermiler forum friends giving him internet high fives after he was featured in a mainstream media story. My point remains about early adopters, the original Insight, and where they fell on a big bell curve of personality traits compared to the motoring public at large. I’m pretty sure the original Insight I’s a/c compressor was belt-driven off the crankshaft and an electric-powered compressor didn’t come out until the Civic Hybrid II (which used a Rube Goldberg setup with two compressors, one electrical and one belt-driven). Auto stop meant the cold a/c air would soon be just ambient air in the old Insight... make sense so far? I can’t believe you’re actually disagreeing that people would sacrifice air conditioning to save gas, when the whole point of those cars was to go to extremes to save gas. Argumentative or agreeable, have a good night.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
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