Honda started it all with its funky little Insight in 1999, but it soon was superseded by the more popular Toyota Prius.
In 2013, the company managed 17,017 sales of its three “Integrated Motor Assist” (IMA) mild-hybrid models, the Civic Hybrid, Insight, and CR-Z.
It also began sales of its full-hybrid Accord in October, which has been selling well although supply constrained and starts at just below $30,000, making for a steeper entry point than Toyota, Kia/Hyundai, or Ford competitors.
The Accord is very effective at achieving its mpg ratings however, these being 50 mpg city, 45 highway, 47 combined, and it appears Honda may in time get away from less-competitive hybrids including with its new Vezel.
The Vezel – due to be renamed for the U.S. – uses a version of the Japanese-market Fit Hybrid’s powertrain, a one-motor system that offers superior fuel economy over the Japanese-market Toyota Prius c, known as the Aqua.
The Accord uses Honda’s new two-motor system, and Honda is also preparing a three-motor hybrid system which will be featured on models including its new NSX.
These all offer improvements over Honda’s just-OK IMA mild hybrid system.
Honda’s Chris Martin told us plans are not settled on when, if, or how it would update its hybrid lineup, but Honda does now have technology that can equal or exceed Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive.
A possible path would be to update its Civic models when Honda localizes U.S. production, possibly in 2015, said Baum.
Martin said Honda is looking at options, including maybe even hybridizing its larger Honda and Acura-badged vehicles, not to mention retrofitting powertrains into cars or SUVs.
After years of lagging sales despite having started the whole hybrid category, the ball is again in Honda’s court.