Aiming squarely for the jugular of the world's leading purveyor of hybrid vehicles is a daring move, but few companies are better suited to the task than Honda. With its new dedicated hybrid model, the company hopes to undercut the current market-leading Prius on price while offering superior performance. The car will be launched for sale in April 2009, though it will likely appear at the Paris Motor Show in near-production form in October.

Sales targets of at least 100,000 units annually in the U.S. mean the company is serious not just about delivering the vehicle, but doing so in quantity. In addition, the pricing, though still not yet announced, will slot in below the $21,500 Toyota Prius - a figure that is also significantly below the price of the current Civic Hybrid, which starts at $22,600. The price drop will come in part from an inexpensive hybrid powertrain that costs roughly half that of the current model.

The 100,000 annual sales figure won't be quite enough to fight with Toyota for the overall sales crown, however. Already the Prius has managed to top that figure in the first seven months of 2008. Last year it sold over 180,000 of the cars in total, reports MSNBC. But as the company fights to regain its hybrid crown - it was significantly ahead of the curve with the Insight in the 1990s, but has since fallen behind Toyota - it will need all the volume, efficiency, and low price it can get, despite already featuring a lineup that is more efficient on the whole than Toyota's.