Prius is right so come on down

Toy­ota’s on its way but the new Honda has to wait, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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