TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co (7267.T) plans to roll out a gas-electric hybrid version of its Fit subcompact car in the autumn of 2010, about a year and a half ahead of the original schedule, to tap growing demand for low-emission vehicles, the Nikkei business daily reported on Wednesday.
Japan’s No.2 automaker, which introduced the Insight hybrid in February, has said it plans to launch three more low-cost gasoline-electric cars by 2012, starting with the CR-Z sports car next year. It has not officially disclosed the timing of the launch of the Fit and Civic hybrids which will follow.
Amid the devastating global slump in demand for cars, fuel-sipping hybrid cars have become a bright spot for the industry with Honda and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) seeing robust demand for their latest models.
Honda’s new Insight, priced from 1.89 million yen ($19,960), became the first hybrid ever to top the best-seller list in Japan last month.
Toyota plans to resume overtime at its factory in Aichi, central Japan, next month in response to strong demand for its new Prius hybrid, public broadcaster NHK said on Wednesday.
Toyota has received orders for more than 110,000 vehicles and plans to raise monthly output of the model by 20 percent from the original schedule to about 50,000 cars, NHK said.
The Nikkei, without citing sources, said Honda aims to sell the hybrid Fit subcompact for about 1.5 million yen ($15,800) and expects annual sales of over 50,000 vehicles.
Honda spokeswoman Akemi Ando said the automaker has not decided the timing of release, price or sales target for the Fit hybrid.
Honda Motor shares rose 1.5 percent to 2,725 yen, in line with the benchmark Nikkei average .N225, while Toyota Motor gained 2.2 percent to 3,680 yen.
$1=94.70 Yen Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Joseph Radford