Takeo Fukui, Honda's CEO makes no bones about a price war with ToyotaEnlarge Photo
The 2010 Insight starts at just $19,800 before delivery fees and taxes, and when t aken in conjunction with likely eligibility for federal tax credits, it's downright affordable. But Toyota is expected to be saving a special cut-rate Prius to slip under the Insight's price tag, and it will be eligible for the same incentives.
"I don't think that would be meaningful to do so," Fukui told Automotive News in an interview today. "I think that is something we can't do right now. We have to carefully examine the new Prius to know whether it is necessary for us to take certain measures."
Honda's stance on using hybrids for small cars and leaving large cars to standard gasoline engines was modified today as well, with Fukui saying there are no plans for a full-size Honda diesel car, but there will be a large-car hybrid in the works.
Previously Honda had said that hybrids only made sense on small cars, and that such technology not only wouldn't help larger cars, but didn't make sense either. The reversal may reflect a shift from an engineering-based decision to a market-based plan.
"For larger vehicles, we think we might have to change the hybrid system so as to improve their efficiency. R&d is working hard on this," said Fukui. But diesels are off the table for emissions reasons - it's just too expensive to make them clean enough to meet U.S. and Japanese standards.
That decision is likely to impact Honda's previous plans to bring V6 diesels to the U.S. by 2010 in its larger cars and SUVs.