Price Cuts Work: Waiting Lists For Electric Honda Fit EVs Now

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Well, chalk one up for basic economic theory: If you lower the price of a good, more people will want to own it.

In the case of the 2013 Honda Fit EV, the low-volume battery-electric version of the Honda Fit subcompact hatchback, a cut in the monthly lease price did the trick.

Through the end of May, Honda had sold only 83 Fit EVs this year, far from the rate required to meet its zero-emission vehicle requirements under California zero-emission vehicle laws.

At the end of last month, Honda cut the Fit EV lease price to $259 a month from $389, and removed the cap on annual miles driven.

That brought the Fit EV much closer to the $199-a-month leases offered on the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf, along with the upcoming Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e.

And in a few cities where plug-in electric cars advocates are numerous--San Francisco and Santa Monica, California, for instance--it brought customers surging into dealerships.

The result, as documented on forums and Facebook groups, was confusion, conflicting messages from different dealers, and the establishment of waiting lists for the suddenly rare Fit EVs.

We spoke to Steve Center, Honda's vice president of environmental business development, who provided some context for the sudden lines and offered advice to potential Fit EV lessees.

Using standard dealer model

The company had originally expected to do most of its customer interaction through a central website. Customers would choose a dealer from which to take delivery of the car once credit approval had been given, an electrician had inspected their premises, and an electric-car charging station had been installed and tested.

That didn't always give customers much chance to drive the actual car, however, and Honda found they often stalled at one step or another.

So starting in March, Honda opened Fit EV leasing to every dealer in the states where the car is available. The number of dealerships has now expanded from the original 36 to more than 200, and ultimately there will be about 300.

Honda Fit EV electric car remote-control key fob showing battery state of charge

Honda Fit EV electric car remote-control key fob showing battery state of charge

Enlarge Photo

Each dealer had a car or two in stock, but when the price cut was announced and customers flooded in, dealers not unexpectedly started taking names.

Delivery rate unchanged

But, due to production constraints at the very low-volume factory in Japan where the Fit EV is assembled--it's the same one that builds the equally low-volume FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle--the pace of deliveries for the Fit EV won't change.

Honda will continue to get deliveries of 40 to 50 Fit EVs every month, and allocate them to dealers based on demand.

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

Enlarge Photo

Within two or three weeks, Center said, the company will give dealers a more long-range look at when they'll get deliveries--and dealers can then convey a more solid date for delivery to customers on waiting lists.

So if you want to lease a Fit EV, here's Center's advice:

  • First, make sure you get your credit approval; that's required beforehand
  • Be persistent, and call multiple dealers to see whether names on a waiting list have turned into actual sales
  • If you're on a list already, check back in three weeks or so to get a better sense for when the dealer will get cars

Honda has seen waiting lists for popular models before, Center said, and has some experience with actual conversion rates.

If there are 70 names on such a list, he suggested, "only 15 or 20 are real"--since customers give their names to multiple dealers, change their minds, and otherwise fall out of serious contention for a variety of reasons.

The Honda Fit EV is offered for lease in eight states: California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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Comments (40)
  1. Hey Honda, this is a sign that people would like to drive your car. I know you don't want to make it, but (some) people want to drive it. Make more please!

    Oh, and fast charging support in version 2 would be very welcome!

  2. My understanding is that CHAdeMO equipment is offered in the Fit EV sold in Japan. They just didn't think you needed it. Virtually all of the six Very Large Manufacturers (GM, Ford, Chrysler/Fiat, Toyota, Nissan Honda) that must sell a certain percentage of Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) in California almost go out of their way to make sure it's not "too popular".

    Honda only needs to sell 1100 cars, Toyota 2600, etc over the "Phase III" of California Air Resources Board (CARB), which applies to model years 2012-2014. Both Honda and Toyota appear poised to provide hydrogen cars in extremely limited number to comply in Phase IV for model years 2015-2017. Neither will likely continue to sell EV cars for ZEV credit after 2014. Enjoy it for now!

  3. Perspective as a Mini-E pioneer and a Fit EV driver:
    The BMW Mini-E program was slammed originally in 2009 as being "just a Carb compliance play" to conform to Carb. Two years later BMW doubled down with the ActiveE and spent billions in plant developments for first in the world mass production of CFRP in the upcoming BMW i3.

    The lesson is not to be too harsh on Honda and the Fit EV as they begin with "just a compliance car." Yes they are making a limited number of Fit EVs however the car is amazing and they have clearly gained much from the Clarity program. Work and focus groups continue, Honda has launched a Plug in hybrid Accord My expectation is that a future mass market Fit EV is on the horizon. It's a market timing issue

  4. I can't imagine Honda makes money with any of these small scale projects; Natural Gas, EV, or Hydrogen. Since the Fit EV is built on a dedicated low volume "niche" assembly line, it would cost a lot of money to ramp up volume. I'm not saying it not going to happen, but that's LONG odds.

    In sharp contrast, Nissan is "all in" with three LEAF assemblies on three continents. The USA assembly alone has 150,000 unit per year capacity, and they have sold 62,000 worldwide already. Honda would have to compete against THAT, nose to nose.

    It seems folks really like the car, so who knows? I guess stranger things have happened.

    BMW is not a Very Large Manufacturer, and is not required to meet the same ZEV standards. They don't need to build the i3.

  5. @Tony: I believe BMW sells enough cars in California to be included in the expanded list of companies required to comply with the second phase (2015-2017) of ZEV requirements. The first phase (2012-2014) was limited to the six highest-selling makers; I believe the second phase doubles that number. So BMW does have to have a ZEV to sell in CA starting in the 2015 model year.

  6. Correct, starting 2015 for BMW. The MiniE and ActiveE were all just "practice".

  7. My coworkers who checked with dealer after the discount came out. He said that SF Bay Area dealers told him all 2013 Honda Fit EV allocations for the year have been allocated and sold. No more left and don't expect to get one at this point.

    It makes sense NOT just b/c the price drop. The unlimited mileage is a MAJOR part of that.

    I have always said that miles and range is weird pair. In order to justify the $$$, you need to have a long commute and lots of miles per year. But in order to do that, you have to have the range.

    Also, in CA, you get additional $2,500 with the lease and that is 10 month FREE driving for a 36 month lease.

  8. Also, many people on the sidelines are making those comments that those monthly leasing price will more than pay for the ga$ co$t alone. However, the miles don't work for me and I see a potential break through in battery ranges and offering in 5-7 years, so I don't want to commit the money now.

    If other $199 leasing rate for other BEV is upgraded to $249 and unlimite miles, they will all be sold out as well... I know at least 6 buyers in my immediate working group who will take up on that offer.

    Don't forget that CA susidize 10-12 months of that leasing payment. So, you get to drive it for FREE.

    Most of people won't turn down a "FREE" promotion.

  9. John, I am still trying to find out what dealers in my area (eastern Massachusetts) have the Fit EV - I've asked in as many places as I can; and I have yet to hear back from anybody. If you know who or where someone can answer this question, they might just lease them to several people I know who are interested.

    And yes, Honda should build as many Fit EV's as they can sell! They have the most efficient car sold in the US right now, and it is one of the best designed cars I know of. Stop being so coy Honda!

    Typo patrol: your first sentence is incomplete.


  10. We hope Honda import its EVs to PR.

  11. PR? Heck, we can't even get them out of CA.

  12. Kudos to Honda for reducing the lease price for the ?hundred? they already have in the field, but they need to find a way to make those loyal early adopters whole. New leasees not only didn't have to pay the extra $$'s on the lease, but also get a free EVSE (over $1K value). I suggest Honda provide a discount on a future Honda equivalent to the excess cost to the early adopters. This would be a win-win.

    Also, expect a bunch of these to be turned in early if the tires wear quickly, as tires are not covered by the lease.

  13. @Al: As noted in the early article about the reduction in lease costs, Honda cut the payment to $259 for existing lessees as well:

  14. They come with Michelins. They will easily last 50 to 60-k miles. They are not an expensive size either.

  15. It's a nit but I think the article should say "more people will want to LEASE it." instead of "more people will want to OWN it". I heard they only lease this car (ie you can't buy it). Is that true?

  16. Only a lease, just like the GM EV-1 from a generation ago, and the BMW MiniE. The manufacturer can then take the car back and crush it, and have not parts to maintain or liabilities to insure. BMW is actually still using some of the MiniE's for projects, but no private parties own or lease one.

  17. Hey Honda! What's going to happen with the Fit EVs after the lease is over? Please tell me it won't turn out like the EV1...

  18. Honda will crush it and then study the bits and pieces...

  19. well the nice thing about all these price drops is not that more people are willing to buy them. that was already known.

    what it does mean though, is that the car companies intend to PRODUCE more.

    if you recall, i have always stated that it is production that we need to get up to speed.

    the car companies will lower their price just enough to sell the cars they produce.

    so if they want to sell a million of them, the price needs to be lower than if they only sell a thousand of them.

    bottom line - getting more cars on the road, and keeping that snowball rolling down the mountain.

    even if some of them are currently just compliance cars, it is still another bev on the road.

  20. But compliance cars won't get the balls rolling in most states outside of California. That is a problem.

  21. all bevs count. it is a numbers game. it does not matter what state they are in.

  22. but to be honest, growth is probably better sustained in smaller numbers of areas. obviously, here in the states, that place of growth is california.

    it is more beneficial to have the bevs lumped closely together, so that we can take advantage of some numbers.

    for example, the business of maintaining them is better if there are a lot of bevs in one locality, such that it makes business sense to have a business for maintaining them, etc.

  23. @EV Enthusiast: Not quite. BEVs count toward the CARB ZEV numbers if they're sold in states that have adopted CARB emissions rules (something like 12 of the 50). So it counts if sold in Oregon, but not in Wyoming.

  24. i was referring to the count of bevs on the road. each one counts in helping the snowball down the mountain.

  25. What I don't get is the point of waiting list...

    If the enough year of Fit EV are allocated and Honda is NOT willing to produce more, then why bother with the waiting list?

    Waiting list only makes sense if you are planning to ramp up production and sell more and hope the customers won't walk away. But having a waiting list greater than the production limit is silly in my opinion.

  26. i dont think what they are doing is silly. if you want the car, getting on the waiting list ASAP, gives one a better chance of getting it. as the article stated, people fall off the list for various reasons.

    also, they CURRENTLY do not have the ability or desire to ramp up production.

    my crystal ball is not working, so i dont know what they may or may not do, in the future.

    some of these compliance cars will become un-complianced.

    the answer lies in information that is not privy to either of us - what is the real business desire/plan for bevs to take over ?

    do they want it to happen in 5 years ? 10 years ? 20 years ? 50 years ?

  27. @EV Enthusiast: Let's be clear. Honda will build the 1,100 Fit EVs they need to meet the CARB ZEV rules, and not a single one more. They reconfirmed that to me in a recent interview.

    There could be customers lined up out the dealers' doors waving wads of cash, and the company would still have no interest in building the 1,101st Fit EV.

  28. i agree that this is what they told you that their CURRENT plans are.

  29. @EV Enthusiast: What would make you think, in the face of multiple statements from Honda, that they would reverse course and build more Fit EVs?

    I'm seriously curious as to why you seem to believe that. Explain.

  30. hi john,

    i dont have any beliefs one way or the other, about any specific car company.

    but i do think it is likely that some of these compliance cars will become uncomplianced.

    rules change, also. what happens if california starts requiring more cars per company ?

    neither of us is privy to the real business plans of these companies. so far, nissan is the only one who seems to want to go headlong into bevs.

    i am happy that they are at least currently giving us signals that production is on the rise.

    i dont care which company puts the car on the road. the only important thing is that the car is on the road.

    as more bevs hit the road, the snowball gains size and momentum.

  31. hi john,

    one last point for you to possibly consider

    i think you are a trusting type of person - that is a good thing, as long as one is smart about human nature, and can use good judgment

    but examine your position in business. you would be looked upon as free advertising, in the sense that whatever you hear in the car world has the potential to be easily spread to the masses

    these car companies are only gonna tell you what they want you to think and spread to others

    if their business plan was to do something next year, but they did not want it known just yet, i am absolutely positive they would lie to your face without blinking an eye

    what people say and what they do are very often not the same thing. so i choose to wait and see

  32. There are more comments in this thread
  33. the bigger that snowball, the more cars and more car companies will get involved.

    which is the basis for my comment about bevs on the road. if we get 1100 from honda currently, great.

    i simply do not see that as the end of the line. simply the starting point of an eventual new line.

    the more bevs on the road, the more chance the average joe will know someone who owns it, thereby triggering more sales, triggering even more joes who know someone, triggering more sales, etc.

    this is the process of any snowball rolling down the mountain. it can roll for a long time with what seems like a small level of growth, until it ends up to be an avalanche.

  34. Well, it still doesn't make sense for company such as Honda who makes far more money in non BEVs than FitEV... At the end of the day, a company has to make money.

    Neither Tesla nor Nissan makes any money on their BEVs yet.

  35. that is part of the snowball. if you ignore it, it eventually clobbers ya.

  36. The "snowball" effect will ONLY work if the battery price continues to drop at current pace and gasoline price continues to rise.

    If gasoline price drops to $2.50/gallon, then BEVs sales will tank.

  37. There are more comments in this thread
  38. Waiting list(s)? What lists? I've asked to SEE any list(s) that might exist, so I know if I am on a list(s), and I'm told I can't see any list(s) and I have to take the work of the dealership. 5 NJ dealers, 3 NY dealers, all the same story, put you on a list, what list, let m e see the list, how do I know I'm on a list, how do I know if the person before or after me is still interested, dropped their name from the list, or paid a payoff to the salesman to move ahead of the list. Even Corporate Honda (Darrel 800-999-1009 x117716) hasn't returned calles concerning my inquiry to this issue, and he told me "NJ/NY/East Coast dealerships are shady to begin with!" Really, it was stated, and if you read my posts on the HondFitEV Forum.........

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