Honda today announced that it will introduce its new small hybrid in early 2009, as well as another unique small hybrid vehicle based on the sporty CR-Z compact concept sports car and a hybrid version of the Honda Fit subcompact.

HybridCars.com reported in 2006 that Honda was planning a hybrid version of the Fit—based on an exclusive interview with an unnamed inside source—but official company statements denied the report. “We’re not thinking of a Jazz (Fit) hybrid right now,” said Takeo Fukui, Honda president and CEO, in December 2006. “To us, the Jazz has sufficient fuel efficiency with the current gasoline engine.” Fukui told reporters today that the spike in crude oil prices convinced Honda that “a Fit hybrid is now starting to make sense.”

The first new small gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle will have expected annual global sales of 200,000 units per year—approximately 100,000 of which are bound for the North American market. With the two new hybrids, yet to be named, and the Honda Fit and Civic Hybrids, Honda expects the four hybrid vehicles to reach combined annual global sales of approximately 500,000 units.

At one point, Honda had three hybrids on the market: the Honda Insight, Civic Hybrid, and Accord Hybrid. The Insight (lacking in convenience as a two-seater) and the Accord Hybrid (which emphasized performance over efficiency) were canceled due to poor sales.

The first new dedicated hybrid vehicle, due in 2009, will be offered as a 5-door hatchback with seating for five passengers and will employ an exterior design concept that evokes the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle. With the new hybrid, Honda is aiming to produce the most affordable hybrid on the market. Fuel economy for the new car is expected to exceed 40 miles per gallon.