Hybrid sales slide 9.9% in 2008

Despite all the clamor about how hybrids are going to save the planet, cure cancer, facilitate the second coming, etc., sales of battery-pack-mobiles are down nearly ten percent for 2008. At the beginning of 2008, it looked like hybrids were going to have their best year ever, driven by high fuel prices and a recessive economy. That recession, however,has caused consumers to cut way back, leading to dramatic drop in fuel prices, killing much of the argument for a hybrid's price premium. Consumers shy away from hybrids when fuel dips below $3.50 per gallon, and the incessant clang of news stories about expensive fuel also dries up, causing the issue of fuel efficiency to fall from consciousness.
Toyota is still the hybrid sales king, with 241,000 units shifted in 2008. Honda managed to ring up 31,000 sales, and Ford came in third with nearly 20,000 vehicles sold. While nearly every automaker offering hybrids is down (Nissan actually saw a 5 percent increase, and General Motors garnered a whopping 179 percent jump thanks to its 2008 introductions), Ford was hardest hit, with a 22 percent drop. Some might say "we told you so" about the way things have played out - by the time everyone got on board with more efficient offerings, the bottom has fallen out of the price of fuel - and others might use the sales figures to agitate for a gas tax to stimulate the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles.
[Source: Auto News - sub req]

Honda tops J.D. Power website usability survey for second straight year

More and more people are shopping online for their new car or truck, making automaker's websites an increasingly important part of the automotive buying experience. Honda seems to get that, as evidenced by its recent win in a new J.D. Power usability survey. The Power study measures website usefulness during the new-vehicle shopping process. New vehicle shoppers evaluate websites based on appearance, speed, navigation and content.
Honda won the award for the second straight time, thanks in part to improved navigation and continued ease of use. Honda's score of 882 out of 1,000 reflects a 16 point improvement over last summer's ranking, and now the site sits 42 points above Power's industry average. Honda was followed in the top five by Porsche, Mitsubishi, Kia, and Acura. The far less distinctive bottom five includes Jaguar, Pontiac, Audi, SMART, and Scion. Hit the jump to view the complete J.D. Power usability survey.
[Source: J.D. Power]

Honda cuts production by 50,000 units in U.S. and Japan

Honda is planning to slash another 50,000 units from its global automotive production in 2009. This is the third round of production cuts that Honda has announced so far, with the last cut being over 100,000 units produced in North America. This time, the drop will also hit Honda's home market of Japan where the Yachiyo facility will produce 21,000 fewer Kei cars than first planned. In addition, plants in Ohio (down 14,000 total units) and Alabama (down 6,000 units) in the United States and in Ontario, Canada (down 9,000 units) will also reduce their output.
Honda currently projects it will sell 1.264 million units this year in North America, a figure that's 12% lower than the initial forecast of 1.468 million vehicles. Despite this drastic downturn in sales expectations, Honda currently has no plans to reduce its workforce in either Japan or in North America.
[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

Honda Fit dominates Consumer Reports subcompact test

Click on the image above for a high-res gallery of the 2009 Honda Fit Sport

The folks over at Consumer Reports have ranked the Honda Fit Sport top among tested subcompact cars in their March 2009 issue. "We found the new Fit the most practical and enjoyable car in this month's group," says Consumers Union. The world's largest independent consumer product testing organization, who don't claim to be enthusiasts, ran the small Honda against the Suzuki SX4, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, and Chevrolet Aveo.
Compared to the rest of the group, the Honda Fit Sport 5-speed was the quickest to 60 miles-per-hour (an asphalt-melting 9.2 seconds) and sipped the least amount of fuel during testing (a not too shabby 33 miles-per-gallon overall). The CU testers were pleased with the Honda's versatile and flexible interior, but not with its dismal headlights. Of the five, only the Fit and SX4 were recommended. The Yaris and Aveo scored too low in testing to make the cut, and the Renault-based Versa sedan has proven too unreliable. Better luck next year, guys. Official press release after the jump.

Gallery: First Drive: 2009 Honda Fit Sport

One in 20 Million: Honda celebrates U.S. production milestone

In spite of Honda's latest production cuts, the Japanese automaker reached a significant milestone this week. Twenty-seven years after opening its Marysville, Ohio, assembly plant, Honda has produced its 20 millionth vehicle in North America. The original U.S. plant is still open but it has been joined by assembly operations in East Liberty, Ohio; Lincoln, Alabama; and Greensburg, Indiana. The automaker also has assembly lines in Alliston, Ontario, and El Salto Jalisco, Mexico.
Many of the vehicles assembled in North America are destined for sale on our shores. According to the automaker, more than 77% of all Honda and Acura vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2008 were produced in North America (representing a total of 1,421,427 units). The positive financial implications are obvious when you realize that Honda partners with more than 620 North American suppliers (545 in the U.S. alone) and purchased parts and materials worth more than $19.5 billion in 2008 alone. The automaker also points out that their cumulative North American engine production has topped 18.4 million units, and they have assembled more than 13 million automatic transmissions domestically. Check out the full press release after the jump.
[Source: Honda]

Geneva Preview: Honda to debut Euro Accord Type S

Click above for a high-res gallery of the standard Honda Euro Accord

Honda has announced that in addition to the S2000 Ultimate Edition, it will unveil the new Accord Euro "Type-S" at next month's Geneva Motor Show. The upgraded Accord will be available in both sedan and wagon (touring) forms, powered by a 2.2-liter i-DTEC diesel that puts out 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque - an upgrade of 30 hp and 22 lb-ft over the standard model. The output gains are thanks to a revised turbocharger and cylinder head design, along with a larger intercooler. The Type-S comes equipped with 18-inch wheels, special badging and clear indicator covers, along with two special hues: White Pearl and Basque Red. Sales will begin in Europe later this year. Make the jump for the press release.

Gallery: 2009 Honda Accord - Euro spec

Honda Insight hits Japan, Mugen accessories follow

Click on the image above for a high-res gallery of the Mugen-accessorized 2010 Honda Insight

It might seem like an odd pairing at first, but we're sure Honda's Mugen accessorized Insight hybrid will find a few buyers in its home market of Japan. Included in the exterior body kit are a sports grille and lip spoiler up front, a set of ground effects for each side, a reworked from fascia and huge wing out back along with optional window visors. Inside, a full set of sports mats is available along with a drilled aluminum set of pedals.
There isn't much to speak of underhood besides a high performance oil filter (seriously?) and lubricants, but there is a sport silencer kit complete with a triangular tip. The best bits, though, are definitely in the handling department, with two sets of alloy wheels in either 15- or 16-inch sizes joining a sports suspension package that includes a new set of springs and dampers that reduce ride height by 20 millimeters. So far, there's been no indication that any of these accessories will make it Stateside, but there's always eBay.

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