With the end of Honda's production of the Insight this year, The New York Times takes a nostalgic look at America's first modern gas-electric hybrid.

Introduced in 1999, the Insight offered an E.P.A. rating of 70/61 on highway and city streets. In 2006, the little two-seater still offers the best estimated mileage numbers. Despite it's fuel savings, the Insight didn't fair well in sales over its production run. It offered no trunk with an uncomfortable suspension set-up riding atop hard, narrow tires to Americans paying an average of just $1.39 per gallon for gasoline. The Insight, in turn, never seemed to break out of its niche role as a utilitarian mode of transportation for extreme treehuggers.

Honda estimates that since 1999, the total sales of the Insight will be roughly 18,000. It's a pretty modest number when compared to Toyota's Prius which was introduced in Japan in 1997 and then exported to Europe and North America in 2000. Just this last April, the Prius passed the half million mark.

Honda, however, was able to pave a path for the recent surge of high mileage, alternative-power cars in the U.S. by introducing the word hybrid to the American automotive scene and offering an insight into future possibilities.

Honda's baby hybrid will surely be considered a classic in the years to come.

[Source: The New York Times]

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