2014 Honda InsightEnlarge Photo
Honda's Insight has never enjoyed the success of the Toyota Prius or even Honda's own Civic Hybrid, and it looks like the writing is now finally on the wall for the budget hybrid hatchback.
According to Autoblog Green, sources within the company have revealed that some preparation procedures normally associated with a new model-year launch--such as preparing advertising materials--are not taking place. It suggests that Honda doesn't intend to extend the Insight into the 2015 model year.
Few will shed a tear at this news, though it does leave a gap at the lower end of the hybrid market. Despite the Insight's compact body, it's actually the cheapest hybrid vehicle on sale--undercutting the Toyota Prius C by a small margin and significantly undercutting Honda's own Civic Hybrid.
At the same time, the Insight has never really enjoyed the sales success of Toyota's hybrids. While admirably efficient in real-world driving its 42 mpg combined economy rating doesn't really stand out, and its 1.3-liter Integrated Motor Assist hybrid drivetrain offers only modest performance.
Honda itself has neither confirmed nor denied the rumors, but it wouldn't come as a shock if Honda does pull the plug.
Last year, we described the Insight as the "forgotten hybrid"--with low sales since its introduction in 2009, scraping 20,000 units in its first two years and little over 15,000 in 2011. In 2012, the model sold just 22,440 units globally--one seventeenth the number of Prius sold worldwide despite a much lower price tag.
It looks unlikely Honda will bring an Insight replacement to the U.S. either, even if it produces one for other markets.
That gap could instead be filled by the next-generation Honda Fit Hybrid, a car we drove in Japan last month. The Insight is based on the previous Fit's floorpan, and it's likely a future model would use the new Fit's underpinnings.
The Fit has always sold better than the Insight--moving nearly 50,000 units last year and as many as 79,000 in 2008--so it makes much more sense to import that model, rather than try another Insight. Whether Honda will or not is a different matter...
Will you be sad to see the Insight go? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.