Just the Facts:
- Honda is planning a major jump in hybrid sales in Japan in 2011.
- New Fit-based hybrid wagon and minivan lead the charge.
- Major update for the Insight is also part of the ramp-up.
TOKYO — Honda will put pedal to the metal in Japan next year when a new and bigger range of hybrid models will land on the market.
Joining the CR-Z and Fit Hybrid on the scene will be a hybridized version of the Freed, Honda's quirky small domestic van. Honda will also introduce a stretched wagon version of the Fit hybrid for domestic consumption, according to sources. The front half of the body will be stock, but overall length will stretch by more than 2 feet.
The Fit hybrid wagon is expected out in March, while the Freed hybrid will arrive later, around fall 2011.
The redesigned Civic Hybrid, to be unveiled in January at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show and tipped to be the first Honda hybrid to get a lithium-ion battery pack, will be another 2011 debut, but Japan, in fact, might not get it.
Having announced the end of Civic sales in Japan and with that longer Fit hybrid wagon in the wings, Honda may feel that it doesn't need the new Civic Hybrid in Japan anymore, not even as an iconic stand-alone model.
Honda will also have the Insight to fall back on, of course, and the good news there is that that to-date lackluster model is due for a major revamp next July.
Toyota will counter with a hybrid version of the new Vitz (Yaris) and Mazda is promising a face-lifted Madza 2 with the automaker's new Skyactiv G gas engine that can achieve hybrid-type economy without the weight and complexity of battery and motor.
Add it up and, although the technology is light and compact, Honda's IMA hybrids have yet to truly catch on and/or frighten Toyota, the market leader. So will 2011 at last be the turning point for Honda?