Way back in 1999, Honda released a funky little car with an electric motor, a gas motor and enclosed rear wheels. The Insight was successful as a niche car and gained a cult following, but never had mainstream success and died a quick death.
Just 5 years ago, Honda released a new version of the Insight, built to nearly identical specs as the much more popular Toyota Prius. The Insight took the Prius’ shape, but lacked a certain something we in the car business like to call “fuel economy and performance.”
Honda likes to believe it’s a leader in hybrid technology, but it has trailed the competition since hybrid technology became a thing.
Want proof? The Insight is about to die. Again.
After selling 21,000 Insights in 2010, Honda managed to move only 4,800 last year. That’s a miserable number for a car that starts under $20,000 and gets around 40 miles per gallon. Why are so few people buying? Simple: Toyota makes a better hybrid.
The Insight is not a bad car by any means. It just doesn’t offer the same value, performance, fuel economy or features as hybrids from Toyota.
Mike Accavitti, senior vice president of auto operations for American Honda, doesn’t seem to know that. He said:
No manufacturer has more experience with electromotive technologies than Honda and we are committed to applying our expertise to a wide range of products in the coming years…. Our hybrid vehicle strategy will focus on new models aimed at delivering the class-leading fuel economy and performance our customers’ desire in segments that represent significant growth opportunities. [sic]
That would be good. If Honda can deliver on that promise to bring the best fuel economy, quality and price to the market, it will surely reap the benefits.
Honda will sell the Insight through the end of this year—after that it’ll be confined to the used market.
When you think of hybrid cars, is Honda the first brand that comes to mind?