Toyota was the first with the Prius and Honda followed with the Civic Hybrid - this led to other Hybrids such as the Lexus LS450h etc. Even though the Honda Civic (petrol) is cheaper to maintain than both the Prius and the Civic Hybrid (RACV Cost Of Ownership survey), the hybrid cars have given both manufacturers the green and clean image which they so desperately craved.
Although in the case of Toyota, large 4WDs are still sold along side the Prius, but you can't blame Toyota for that, when there is a market, there is money to be made. However you only have to look at Honda's Formula 1 car to realize just how important the green image is:
In the US, Honda have been selling a Honda Accord Hybrid for the last few years (2004), not exactly a popular seller given the American's dislike for all things efficient. So Honda America stated today that the new model Accord will no longer be offered in Hybrid format.
Lets be fair here, in a country full of open roads and long distances, a Hybrid seems like a good choice, and not all Americans are after 6.0-litre V8s, in-fact hybrid sales have increased nearly 95% in the last year alone, yet, Honda which has seen the Accord Hybrid's sales drop more than 40% have decided to discontinue the model.
"We've found hybrids are more fuel efficient in smaller vehicles, that's the direction we're pursuing. We have said, longer term, that diesel makes more sense for larger vehicles from an efficiency standpoint." Honda America said.
Diesels make more sense for larger vehicles? This is true, but that doesn't mean Hybrid technology should be ignored, Peugeot is working on a Diesel Hybrid! The current Accord Hybrid, comes with a V-6 hybrid engine, the idea was to test the American market - a test which failed as the Hybrid variant was too expensive to justify the extra cost.
So why has Australia been neglected? Why is there no Accord Hybrid here? We recently put the Honda Civic Hybrid against the Toyota Prius and the Honda fared rather well. Australia has one of the highest uptakes of Hybrid vehicles in the world (per capita). Europe is obsessed with Diesel and America? Well, there is demand for everything.
Honda Australia Spokesman Gareth Rees told CarAdvice the Hybrid Accord is not under consideration.
The short answer is no. It's a good car, but as far as I know it's only left-hand drive. Our environmental-car focus is on the Civic Hybrid. Mr Reese said.
In the States, Honda are also working on plans to produce a hybrid smaller than the Civic in 2009, another contestant that has put its name into the hat of light cars, that now makes Suzuki with the Splash, Holden with the Matiz and Nissan with the Micra.
Honda plan to replace the Hybrid Accord with a Diesel variant, an ultra-clean four-cylinder engine expected to be in the 2.2 - 2.4-litre range and capable of meeting California's strict Tier II / Bin 5 standards (thanks to Mr Schwarzenegger), which are the toughest diesel emissions standards in the world!