The production version of the all-new 2010 Honda Insight, a dedicated gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, made its world debut at the North American International Auto show in Detroit on January 11, 2009.
For a car that won't go on sale until next Tuesday, the 2010 Honda Insight grabs a huge amount of attention. Most of it focuses on the anticipated battle between the Insight and the Toyota Prius.
Just today, we learn that the Honda dealers of southern California have driven the Toyota Prius and their own new hybrid back-to-back at sales meetings. Hardly surprising, really.
And it's clear Toyota has cause for worry over the similarly shaped Insight. The mileage is higher than ever on its upcoming 2010 Prius, but a rise from 46 to 50 miles per gallon may not resonate when gasoline has fallen to $2/gallon.
The brand-new 2010 Toyota Prius will go on sale around Memorial Day, offering more power and greater luxury--right when Americans want to spend less on their car if in fact they buy at all.
Both cars already have their partisans. Just check out the comments on a recent Business Week "Auto Beat" item. Industry analyst Jim Hall, of 2953 Analytics, says in that piece, "Toyota has defined what a true hybrid is" because the Prius runs on electric power only at low speeds.
Author David Welch also suggests that the Insight is vulnerable because it's marketed as the least expensive hybrid on sale. Toyota, he says, could simply cut the price of the Prius to bring its larger, more capacious hybrid within spitting distance of the smaller Insight.
Perhaps, but remember that Toyota hasn't yet priced the 2010 Prius. With more features, we'd expect the 2010 to be at least a bit more expensive than the 2009 model, which starts at $22,000--perhaps helping the Honda.
But in Japan, the base price for a 2010 Prius has been set more than 10 percent lower than the 2009. And Toyota plans to keep making the older 2009-style Prius as a lowest-cost hybrid alternative, though only in Japan--not in the US.
More pros and cons: The Insight gets good reviews from the auto press, but the Prius has experience on its side. Consumer Reports called the 2009 Toyota Prius Touring its best new car value, for instance.
And Honda's sales goal of 90,000 Insights in its first year is just half the number of 2010 Priuses that Toyota says it will sell in that car's first year.
We can't handicap the outcome of the competition. In fact, we think it's great. More hybrids on the market can only mean more hybrid drivers, which is good for us--and good for the planet.
2009 Toyota Prius Touring
[SOURCE: Green Car Advisor]