2013 Honda InsightEnlarge Photo
Quick, name a Japanese carmaker that's sold 1 million hybrid cars.
Yes, OK, Toyota is a right answer. But there's another one, too, as of the end of September
Automaker Honda announced yesterday that its total sales of hybrid cars had crossed the 1 million mark--just a month shy of 13 years from the day its first-generation Insight went on sale.
Starting in late 1999 with that first Insight, a tiny two-seat hatchback, the company has steadily boosted production of a dozen different vehicles that have used eight generations of its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system.
The company's newest hybrid is the 2013 Acura ILX Hybrid, an entry-level compact sport sedan from Honda's near-luxury brand. That car is also its first to be built in the United States, and is sold only in North America.
Currently, Honda and Acura together sell four hybrid models: the second-generation Honda Insight, a subcompact five-door hatchback; the Honda CR-Z, a sporty two-seat hatchback; the Honda Civic Hybrid, now in its third iteration; and the Acura ILX Hybrid.
Honda also sells a hybrid version of its Fit subcompact hatchback in Europe and Asia, but not in the U.S.
It has three other hybrid models as well that are sold only in Japan.
Honda's next foray into hybrids will be on the high end of its product range, with the Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-In Hybrid that will go on sale early next year as 2014 models.
The company's new two-motor hybrid system for larger vehicles is its first "full hybrid" powertrain, meaning it can propel the car solely on electricity for a few miles under light load.
Honda's 1 million-plus hybrids to date have all been "mild hybrids" with a much smaller electric motor that provides torque to assist the gasoline engine, but can't run the car by itself. That motor also restarts the engine and recharges the battery on engine overrun and regenerative braking.
The upcoming 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid sedan is expected to be rated at 12 to 20 miles of electric range. It will go on sale a few months earlier than the conventional Accord Hybrid.
The first hybrid car from larger rival Toyota, the Prius subcompact sedan, went on sale in 1997, three years before the Honda Insight. It was sold only in Japan until 2000.
While it's taken Honda 13 years to hit the 1-million mark, Toyota hybrid sales passed 3 million in March 2011 and the company is now closing in on 4 million.