Year after year, the Honda Civic has been one of the most popular car models in the United States. The model has done relatively well in Japan, too. The company introduced a hybrid Civic in the US, but we all know how well they sold—drive around certain neighborhoods in LA and Northern California and you would think the Toyota Prius was the only car available on the market. The hybrid Civic, sadly for Honda, never had the chance to compete.
But in Japan, the hybrid Civic has found a new life. Honda will only manufacture hybrid Civics starting in 2011. The announcement is also part of a shift in Honda’s overall strategy. Honda had planned on building even smaller cars and automobiles using clean diesel technology. But those plans never materialized, so Honda is transitioning away from the traditional internal combustion engines (ICE), and will start manufacturing the Civics with an ICE/regenerative breaking hybrid design.
By 2013, Honda says it will have as many as five hybrid models on its domestic and international markets. The firm plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that same year, which would compete with the Nissan Leaf. But hybrid technology appears to be the path that Honda wants to follow, and by phasing out older technologies while focusing on the ICE-hybrid engine, Honda hopes that an increased manufacturing of car batteries will allow for scale. If all goes Honda’s way, hybrid Civics would soon cost about the same or even less than those that use the older, gas-guzzling engines.
Honda believes moving to more of a hybrid fleet will prove to be more profitable in the long run. Improving gas mileage, which hybrid technology allows, could generate a higher return on investment. Hybrids are not as risky of an investment as PHEV technology, which requires a vast and costly change in infrastructure. Some green car enthusiasts may be disappointed: the new factory in Japan that was to build clean-diesel and those smaller, fuel-efficient cars will be switched over to building hybrid engines for the Civic and other models. Many automotive experts have expressed disappointment at Honda’s hybrid technology, which cannot currently compete with the batteries that power Toyota’s Priuses and other models.
So follow Honda’s performance in its home country for the next few years. By the end of the decade, Honda’s line of hybrids may become as commonplace in North America as the Prius and other models that will hit the market.
Ed note: this piece has been edited since it was first published.