2010 Honda Insight EX – Click above for high-res image gallery

Many years ago, Honda's current chief executive officer, Takanobu Ito, rose to fame for his contributions to the amazing Acura NSX sports car. Now, Ito is faced with the daunting challenge of creating equally exciting cars that use only a fraction of the fuel of the acclaimed NSX. Honda's current position as the automaker with the most fuel-efficient fleet of vehicles in the U.S. is being challenged by the likes of Ford and Hyundai-Kia, and Ito is not content with Honda letting go of the reigns.

The Honda-Acura fleet of vehicles managed an average of 23.6 miles per gallon in 2009. The Hyundai-Kia lineup came in just shy of that mark at 23.4 mpg. Hyundai models, excluding those offered by Kia, actually surpassed Honda with an average of 23.9 mpg. Newly introduced Hyundai products such as the Sonata and Elantra should easily eclipse the EPA ratings for competitive Honda vehicles like the Accord and Civic. The introduction of these new models will further enhance Hyundai's leading position if Honda does not react quickly. As industry analyst Ed Kim of AutoPacific Inc. notes, Honda has a substantial amount of work ahead to overtake Hyundai:
Even before the green thing was big, they were into green. Over the last few years, they've been completely leapfrogged in new engine technologies.
So far, Ito has made some moves towards increasing product efficiency. His decision to delay the next-generation Civic is not a favorable one, but one that had to be made. In addition, the 2011 Honda Accord features improved EPA ratings due to some minor tweaks. The minor improvements may not be enough, though, since Hyundai plans to introduce its 40-mpg Sonata Hybrid soon. If the Sonata Hybrid is a hit, it could push the company further into the mpg lead and leave Honda in its dust.

Photos by Sam Abuelsamid/ Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]

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