Before it launched in the US in March, the 2010 Honda Insight generated huge buzz. It was the "affordable hybrid," the "Prius killer," Honda's triumphant re-entry into the dedicated hybrid market it abandoned with the first generation Insight in 2006.
So how's it going?
Well, 2010 Insights are certainly selling, and they can be seen on the streets of green-friendly areas on the West Coast. But Honda has backed away from its early sales estimates, and the Insight may only reach half the volume of its rival the 2010 Toyota Prius.
More profitable at home
Quoting American Honda executive John Mendel, who was interviewed on Bloomberg in June, trade journal Automotive News reported that the company's initial projection of 90,000 sales for the 2010 Honda Insight has been ramped down to "50,000 to 60,000".
Some of this is deliberate; demand for the 2010 Honda Insight is brisk in its home country, where it briefly reigned as Japan's top-selling car due to a government incentives for purchase of highly-efficient cars.
With unfavorable dollar-yen exchange rates putting pressure on its $20,400 base price, Honda can make more money focusing sales of the Japanese-built car elsewhere. Its battery pack, electric motor, and other specialized hybrid gear make the Insight far pricier for Honda to build than, say, the 2010 Honda Fit hatchback.
Still, the 2010 Honda Insight has not seen the global demand that has led the 2010 Toyota Prius to be essentially sold out in the US market. The 2010 Prius, in fact, is the fourth most-popular vehicle purchased under the US government's "Cash for Clunkers" plan, and Toyota may sell as many as 150,000 of them in the first 12 months--if the company can get them.
We liked the car when we drove the 2010 Honda Insight, though we were concerned about cost-cutting that led it to feel cheap inside. The Insight, we wrote, was clearly built to a cost, and it's much more apparent than in other Honda models, like the Civic sedan, even the subcompact Fit hatchback.
Thumbs-up for the 'cool factor'
On the other hand, our 16-year-old Silicon Valley correspondent Kyle (who's only ever driven hybrids his whole life), gave the 2010 Honda Insight the thumbs-up over his family's previous-generation Toyota Prius. See his full reports here:
So if you're looking for a green car with high gas mileage, we definitely recommend considering the 2010 Honda Insight. But be aware, as we've said, that it's a very different car than the 2010 Toyota Prius. We suspect buyers may be learning just that right now.
Kyle with his family Toyota Prius and the new 2010 Honda Insight he drives
[Automotive News (subscription required)]