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Honda Fit Hybrid

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co. (7267.T) plans to sell a low-cost hybrid car, a version of its popular Fit subcompact, a Japanese daily reported, signaling the auto maker's long-term commitment to the fuel-sipping powertrain.

Japan's third-biggest auto maker aims to sell the Fit hybrid as early as next year for around 1.4 million yen ($11,790), or about 200,000 yen more than the gasoline-only version, likely making it the world's first hybrid to cost less than 2 million yen ($16,840), the leading Japanese business daily said on Wednesday.

The model could be launched in the business year starting April 2007 and would be sold globally, the paper said.

A spokesman denied Honda had made any decision on whether to hybridise the Fit, but added it had the technological wherewithal to mount its hybrid system, which twins an electric motor and a conventional engine to save fuel, on most of its vehicles.

Chief Executive Takeo Fukui has long said the price premium for a hybrid over a gasoline-only car needs to fall below 200,000 yen ($1,680) for the powertrain to go mainstream.

With hybrid systems still costing auto makers -- and customers -- thousands of dollars, Fukui has said Honda had not made a strategic decision yet to produce the gasoline-electric vehicles in big volumes, unlike rival Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T), which has aggressively promoted their proliferation.

A decision to offer a hybrid version of the mass-volume Fit -- Honda's best-selling model in Japan and due to debut in the United States soon -- would suggest the auto maker is a step closer to committing to the powertrain longer-term.

Honda also sells hybrid versions of its two best-selling cars, the Accord and Civic, at a premium of around 300,000 yen ($2,525). Its hybrid-only Insight coupe was the first gasoline-electric car to be sold in the United States.

Honda is developing a smaller motor and battery to reduce the hybrid's cost and weight, the Nihon Keizai said. It will twin the hybrid unit with a one-litre engine for the Fit, the paper added.

Toyota also aims to halve the production and selling cost of a hybrid system. It currently sells many of its hybrid models at a premium of around 500,000 yen ($4,200).

Honda, Toyota and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F - news) are so far the world's sole mass-producers of hybrid passenger cars. Laggards like General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM - news) argue that hybrid systems are most suitable for large vehicles due to the added weight from the extra components.

Compact cars are also generally fuel-efficient to begin with, and the extra cost of a hybrid car may be more difficult to justify, depending on how much can be saved at the pump.

The newspaper said the Fit hybrid would have fuel economy comparable to that of the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, which the auto makers advertise in Japan as getting around 35-36 km to a liter (82-84 miles per gallon).

The most fuel-efficient gasoline-only Fit, with a 1.3-liter engine and continuous variable transmission, gets 24 km to a liter (56 miles per gallon).

($1=118.78 yen)

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Note that the article is implying the Japanese/European market prices, which are less than the American market Fit (which has more features, safety, etc), but they do state it will be sold globally (and it is assumed it will be at the same time as a full model update). If the Hybrid is planned to be around $2-3k more than the base model, we could see a Fit Hybrid for around 16-17k.

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So I suppose this is the replacement for the Insight?

At least it has a more practical body... but it's still aluminum can quality.

No, I'm serious, not plain bashing. I've been in them.

Edited by ToniCipriani

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What's the point of hybridizing such an old car?

The hybrid model will most likely be released at the same time as the Fit gets its FMC (full model change), which would be next year most likely for the other markets. The USDM may not see it until a year after that (which is the usual trend).

The point of hybridizing a Fit, is you can get the great fuel economy of the Insight (with a 1.0L IMA system), but have the room and number of doors of the Fit (since the gas tank is below passenger seat, the battery system won't take up much more room where the gas tank normally goes on other cars) and its practicallity. Also, if it will be 16-17k, it will be very affordable, and aside from the Insight, might actually be an economically (as well as environmentally) good hybrid buying choice.

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I don't see the point, either, but not because the Fit is old. I don't see the point of adding Hybrid technology to a car that already gets 40+ MPG in the first place. Honda needs to make a Hybrid version of the Ridgeline, a vehicle that gets probably 20 MPG on average. Raising the Ridgeline's mileage just 5 MPG to 25 or so will have a much greater impact than raising the Fit's to 60 (if it would even get 60 MPG in real-life driving).

Also, the kind of people who will be buying the Fit (i.e: poor people, youngsters and seniors) probably won't have an extra $3,000 to put into a new car, nevermind the fact that they will probably never see a return on that investment due to improved mileage.

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