A recent post on the EV World Blogs gives us interesting insight (bad wordplay) into Honda's decision to keep producing its Insight hybrid despite very slow sales and an unchanged design since its 2000 introduction. Read on for an excerpt of the interview with Honda's Gunnar Lindstrom from EV World.From EV World:
So, when I had the chance to talk to Honda's Gunnar Lindstrom at the 2005 Electric Drive Transportation Association conference in Vancouver last week, I asked him about the status of the Insight, the company’s two-seat, gas-mileage champ. [...]
From Honda’s perspective, the car has greater value than its sales bottom line. With an EPA mileage rating of 61 city/69 highway, it continues to lead all other gasoline-engine production cars available in North America. As a result, everytime the EPA and Natural Resources Canada publish their best and worst lists on automobile fuel economy, the little Insight is always there at the top of the best, ahead of its nearest competitor, the Toyota Prius. That is PR power that is apparently worth every penny Honda loses on the Insight.
It would be a safe bet to assume, I think, that the Insight will continue to be produced in small numbers until Honda has developed a successor that it is confident will keep its name at the top of those fuel economy lists. I suggested this to Lindstrom and he nodded his agreement.
Obviously, the Insight vs. Prius comparison isn't very satisfying from a more objective perspective, with Honda's hybrid being a small aluminum two-seater and Toyota's hybrid being a mid-size "family" car, but PR and marketing are rarely based on objective standards, so it is not so surprising to learn that Honda is finding that the "halo" effect of having the fuel economy leader is worth keeping in production a car that sells about 2,000 units per year.