February 5, 2009 / 3:41 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Honda sees Insight hybrid below $20,000 in U.S.

(Adds details, background)

By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia autos correspondent

TOKYO, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co (7267.T) said on Thursday it wants to price the new Insight — its first real attempt at selling gas-sipping hybrid cars in big volumes — below $20,000 in the U.S. market.

Japan’s No.2 automaker on Thursday priced the new dedicated gasoline-electric car to start at 1.89 million yen ($21,140) in Japan, where the car goes on sale on Feb. 6 ahead of other markets. It had said in the past the selling price elsewhere would depend on exchange rates. [ID:nN11273855]

“We want to sell it for below $20,000,” Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo told a news conference to launch the car.

The Insight, a production version of which debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month, will have listed highway/city mileage of 40/43 miles per gallon in the United States.

Honda has said the five-door, five-seater Insight, which it is marketing as the first model under a new “Honda Green Machine” campaign, was its first true attempt to mass-market hybrid cars.

“Along with the Accord and Civic, we are positioning the Insight as a global car,” CEO Takeo Fukui said in Tokyo, repeating Honda’s aim to hybridise about one-tenth of its car sales by 2015. [ID:nT148659]

Honda is targeting sales of 200,000 Insights a year globally, with 60,000 in Japan and about 100,000 in North America.

    In the past decade, Honda has sold about 300,000 hybrid cars cumulatively against 1.7 million for Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), which was just two years ahead with its first hybrid.

    Toyota is scheduled to launch the third-generation Prius later this year, and executives have said it would be priced slightly higher than the current version, which starts around $22,000 in the United States and 2.3 million yen in Japan.

    Honda priced the Insight, to be built at the Suzuka factory in Japan, below 2 million yen in Japan, as promised, or about $5,000 cheaper than the Civic hybrid. It plans to announce final pricing in Europe and the United States shortly before the car goes on sale in those markets, in late March and early April, respectively.

    “The key selling point for the Insight was its affordability,” Fukui said, adding that he expected little competition from the Prius.

    Fukui also said production of the Insight outside Japan was something the company would likely consider down the line if sales consistently held around 100,000 units a year in a single market. (Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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