Thursday, May 22, 2008

Honda to Debut Dedicated Hybrid in Early 2009

Honda Motor Co Ltd announced its hybrid strategy at the Mid-Year CEO Speech May 21, 2008. The company will introduce a new hybrid car in early 2009 and add a hybrid model to its "Fit" subcompact lineup.

The new hybrid car, which will be commercialized in early 2009, is a 5-door, 5-passenger compact model with the exterior design that employs the concept of its "FCX Clarity" fuel cell vehicle, Honda said. It is a dedicated hybrid model based on a newly developed platform that locates the control unit and the battery under the cargo space and will offer a new world of driving beyond any conventional gasoline-powered vehicle, said Takeo Fukui, president and CEO of Honda.

The hybrid system employs the "Integrated Motor Assist (IMA)" system, which provides motor assist when it is necessary during startup and acceleration while relying on the engine as the main power source. The system consists of one motor as simple as the company's previous system.

Honda downsized the control unit and battery, as well as slimming the motor, for their applications to the new hybrid, it said. The company will add a new production line at its Suzuka Factory for the production of the new motor and increase its per-hour production capacity to more than double that of the existing line by boosting the speed of each process and the ratio of automation.

This new motor production line will become operational at the end of 2008. Total annual production capacity will be expanded to 250,000 units including 70,000 units from the existing line. Further expansion of production capacity is possible to accommodate demand growth in the future, Honda said.

The new hybrid car will be released in Japan, North America and Europe at the beginning of 2009, with expected annual global sales of 200,000 units. Honda will expand small class hybrid sales by further adopting the new hybrid system to the Civic Hybrid, a new sporty hybrid based on the "CR-Z," which was showcased at Tokyo Motor Show, as well as the "Fit."

Combining these four models, Honda expects its hybrid sales will increase to roughly 500,000 units sometime after 2010.

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