Prius is right so come on down
Toyota’s on its way but the new Honda has to wait, writes PAUL GOVER
THE biggest showdown in the history of hybrids has turned into a fizzer. Honda and Toyota had been set for a petrol-electric punch-up in the second half of the year, but runaway prices and Japanese demand have meant a delay for the Australian matchup.
Toyota will still get its thirdgeneration Prius into showrooms, but the price pressure from the new Insight will not arrive until early next year.
Until then, Honda Australia will have to soldier on with its underdone Civic Hybrid against the might of the new Prius.
It is still planning a sub$30,000 Insight starting price — the second Honda hybrid to wear the badge but a vast change from the original — but nothing is confirmed.
‘‘The plan is to introduce it as soon as possible. We are still hoping and planning for the first half of 2010,’’ Honda Australia managing director Yasuhide Mizuno says.
‘‘There may be a delay. The reason is that it went on sale in Japan on February 6 and in the first four weeks they have taken 18,000 orders. That’s against a target of 5000 for the month.’’
Mizuno says: ‘‘ We are delighted with the acceptance of the car into the market place, but if that popularity continues in America and Europe, it could mean a delay for Australia while they satisfy demand.’’
Honda has taken an aggressive price point in the US, setting the Insight at the equivalent of $31,256, and Mizuno says he still wants it below $30,000 here.
‘‘In terms of pricing, we’ve always said our goal is below $30,000, depending on exchange rate, obviously,’’ he says.
‘‘But at the moment the exchange rate would not allow that. Still, we will be pricing it below the Civic hybrid. And volume will be determined by price.’’
Though Honda is still battling to get a plan for the Insight,
‘‘Prius is coming in July. That’s always been the timing,’’ he says.
But he cannot comment yet on how it will be priced.
The current starting point for the Prius is $37,400 and Toyota had hoped to undercut it, but that was without the uncertainty in the Australian dollar.
Breen rules out any chance of Toyota going with a two-Prius strategy to cover the price of the Insight. Toyota is going to run the old and new cars side by side in Japan, but has ruled out any copycat strategy in the US.
Waiting: the Honda Insight won’t arrive until next year. The Toyota Prius (above) is due in July.