Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can take a step forward. Honda is apparently discontinuing its Insight hybrid to refocus its hybrid strategy, and I think that's a good move. The concept was good - they tried to make a lower cost dedicated hybrid to fight with the Prius - but the technology platform they were riding, Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system, just didn't have the legs to take them there.
They now have a much more competitive 2-motor hybrid tech, which is found in the 2014 Accord hybrid (49 MPG city), and I expect to focus their future hybrid efforts on it. The two-motor system is also plug-in compatible, unlike the lowered-powered IMA (see the plug-in Accord, with its 115 MPGe), so it has a much longer runway ahead.
This move by Honda isn't too surprising. Toyota has sold around 3.2 million units of the Prius, while the Insight hybrid sold about 280,000 units, with most of those in Japan. Bloomberg reports:
Honda informed dealers in November that the current generation of the Insight will be discontinued this month and asked them to stop taking orders, Yuka Abe, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman for the carmaker, said by phone today. Nothing has been decided whether there will be a future Insight, she said.
The original Insight was quite ahead of its time and pioneered the hybrid market. It would be great if Honda revived the Insight nameplate with something just as cutting edge. That would probably mean an entirely electric car. They wouldn't be the firsts this time, but it's still early days and the field is wide open for someone to come up with an affordable, attractive, safe, and long-range EV that will be truly mass-market.
They should also use their 2-motor hybrid system in their other vehicles, with plug-in capabilities. It's already in the Accord, but they should put it in the Civic, the CR-V, their pickups, minivans... Everything. That would help them reclaim some of the the fuel-efficiency and technological leadership.