Much has already been written about Honda's plan to introduce a fleet of new hybrid models to take on Toyota's dominance in the segment. It's strategy includes a new dedicated hybrid model, a sporty hybrid based on the CR-Z concept, and hybridized versions of the Civic and Fit. Yesterday Honda's President, Takeo Fukui, revealed more information about that dedicated hybrid that's destined to take on the Toyota Prius in the global marketplace. While an official name and specific details will come later this year, Fukui did say that it will be a five-door hatchback (like the Prius) and seat five people. It's styling will be inspired by the FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle, so expect a clean shape that's slippery through the wind. It will be produced in Japan alongside the Civic Hybrid at Honda's Suzuka factory, and the automaker expects to sell about 200,000 per year around the world, with 100,000 earmarked for North American markets. Honda also claims it has found new ways to reduce weight in the car and also lower the cost of its Integrated Motor Assist technology, though we don't expect any of these hybrids to be full parallel hybrids like the Prius, i.e. able to run on electricity alone.

Altogether, Honda hopes its four new hybrid models will reach global sales of 500,000 per year shortly after they're all on the market around 2010. Bully for them, but Toyota's already said that it will be selling a million hybrids annually by that time. Game on, people. Check out the official line from Honda PR after the jump.

[Source: Honda]


PRESS RELEASE

Honda Announces Additional Details on New Small Hybrid Vehicle

Honda today announced additional details regarding its new small hybrid scheduled for introduction in early 2009, as part of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. CEO Takeo Fukui's mid-year address. An official name and full product details will be announced later this year.

In addition to weight reduction, a significant cost reduction in Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) components will result in the most affordable hybrid vehicle to date. This dedicated hybrid vehicle will be offered as a 5-door hatchback with seating for five passengers and will employ an exterior design concept that evokes the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle. Along with the Civic Hybrid, the new vehicle will be produced at an expanded IMA production line at Honda's Suzuka factory in Japan.

The new small gasoline/electric hybrid vehicle will have expected annual global sales of 200,000 units per year - approximately 100,000 of which are bound for the North American market. Following this launch, Honda also plans to introduce another unique small hybrid vehicle based on the CR-Z sports car first shown at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show as well as a Fit hybrid model. Including the Civic Hybrid, these four hybrid vehicles are expected to reach combined annual global sales of approximately 500,000 units.

"Honda has been at the forefront of hybrid development since it first introduced the American public to hybrid technology with the Insight in 1999," said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda. "These new advancements in Honda's technology and production systems will result in cost reductions that will allow us to make hybrid technology available to a whole new generation of buyers."

Featuring seating for five passengers, distinctive styling and high-value amenities, the new hybrid will present an appealing package. Taking advantage of reductions in the size of components, the battery and the internal processing unit will be positioned below the rear cargo area, allowing the hatchback design to provide adequate cargo space to meet the needs of a family. Additionally, various technologies, including a function to assist more fuel efficient driving, are being installed to achieve a further improvement of practical fuel efficiency. With its affordable price, the new hybrid vehicle will represent the best value in its segment.

The new hybrid will be produced at a newly developed second IMA production line at Honda's Suzuka factory, which currently produces the Civic Hybrid. With the second line in operation and improvements in IMA production efficiency, hybrid production capacity at Suzuka will increase from 70,000 vehicles per year to approximately 250,000 units, with future expansion possible if needed.

Honda is committed to offering products with the highest environmental performance produced at factories with reduced environmental footprints. A leader in the development of cleaner, more fuel-efficient mobility products, Honda introduced the first low-emission vehicles; America's first gas/electric hybrid car, the Insight and the world's first EPA-certified hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, among other environmental achievements. In 2007, Honda was named "greenest automaker" by the Union of Concerned Scientists for the fourth straight time.