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All-New Insight Makes European Debut in Valencia

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Honda Insight Hybrid
January 19, 2009 - The all-new Insight was shown to journalists in Europe for the first time at a press event in Valencia.

About all-new Insight
5-door family hatchback with Honda's petrol-electric IMA system
Combines practicality and flexibility in an affordable package
Low emissions and great fuel economy based on real world driving conditions
Unique Eco Assist driver coaching system that can help any driver maximize fuel economy
Sleek, sporty and aerodynamic design influenced by FCX Clarity
Practical and spacious interior to accommodate five passengers
Flexible and class-leading load space of 408-liters
Generous value for money
Honda's renowned build quality and low running costs
Excellent occupant and pedestrian crash protection

Honda first marketed the original Insight Hybrid in 1999 and has been working on the technology for almost two decades.

The motivation behind pursuing this technology is fundamental and basic, avoiding waste. In simple terms, the energy from braking on a car with a conventional drivetrain is lost by being converted into energy that disappears into the atmosphere as heat and noise. The task Honda's R&D engineers set themselves was to harness this energy to the benefit of the customer and the environment.

One decade on, Honda is launching a new Insight that takes those core principles and extends them, allowing a customer to carry their family and luggage in an efficient, flexible and affordable vehicle.

The Direction of the Honda Insight
The aim was to make petrol-electric technology available to more people by developing a family hybrid car that was more affordable.

The Insight is a 5-door hatchback with Honda's IMA hybrid system that offers low-emission, fuel efficient motoring in a practical, no-compromise offering -to make an attractive, lower cost package.

Honda expects this car to have a significant impact on the industry. Because the Insight will be more affordable to more people, it makes cleaner car technology accessible to a completely new group of car buyers - opening the hybrid market to a new section of society.

That's why the main aim in the development to reduce the size, complexity and price of components and systems to drive that final retail price down. Honda wants to bring hybrid technology to a wider market, but knows that the price, or the perceived price, of cleaner cars has prevented some car buyers from even looking at them seriously. Honda wants those people who've never considered buying a hybrid car to try one for size.

It is one thing to develop an ultra-green product, that only the affluent can afford, but in its quest to be a company that society wants to exist, Honda challenged its engineers to build a hybrid for everyone.

Making it Affordable
The Insight is the culmination of over 20 years of hybrid development and more than 35 years of lower impact petrol engine development, which started with the CVCC engine in 1972.

That experience and technical knowledge has enabled Honda to develop the components and parts in our IMA system so they can be produced at a lower cost.

Honda has also been building production hybrids for a decade. In that time, a lot has been learnt about the production of electric motors and other key parts of the hybrid system. This understanding has led to improved production equipment and techniques, which will reduce production costs. And because the major hybrid components are produced in-house, this also helps to control overall costs.

"Our engineers have shown great tenacity and skill in reducing the cost of our IMA system to allow us to reduce the build costs of the Insight. By using so many components that are manufactured in-house, we have the ability in the market to continuously refine our processes in a way an outside supplier might not." Yasunari Seki, Insight Large Project Leader

The plan to produce and sell a much larger number of hybrid cars than before leads to economies of scale, and thus a lower final cost per unit. To achieve these numbers, a new electric motor production line has been added to the Suzuka factory, in Japan, which will double its per hour production capacity for IMA motors.

There are also specific product developments that helped keep the costs down:

1. 95 percent of the IMA unit was redesigned to reduce both size and cost

2. It was a bespoke model, so any additional costs required to ‘shoe-horn' technology into an existing model (eg. Civic Hybrid) were eliminated

3. The platform and chassis share many components with that of the new Jazz

Cost-saving does not imply cutting corners or compromising on performance or durability. Engineers have focused on finding engineering solutions to drive costs down, developing the most efficient hybrid technology at the lowest possible cost to the customer.

The Motivation for Building an Affordable Hybrid
A key part of Honda's global philosophy is to be "a company that society wants to exist". And while that may at first sound like another piece of marketing strategy speak, it is a mantra that is followed the world over, starting with the R&D centres.

This philosophy helps explain why the marketing of a more affordable hybrid car; it's part of Honda's efforts to have a positive impact on society.

Honda could have chosen to place this cleaner technology in high-end cars; showpiece environmental machines to sell at a premium rate to a low number of customers. There's probably an argument that says there's more money per unit in that approach.

However, in line with Honda's philosophies, beliefs and heritage, the approach was to bring low emission hybrid technology to the masses by using our engineering experience to reduce the costs and therefore the retail price.

As well as introducing new sections of society to cleaner cars, this should also help increase the sales volume of hybrid cars - which will have a positive effect on overall emissions figures, and therefore the environment.

Fuel Consumption and Emissions Improvements
The fuel economy (combined) is 4.4 l/100km, while CO2 emissions are as low as 101g/km.

Honda has concentrated on developing a car that will deliver better fuel economy in the ‘real world', taking into account the actual conditions in which the car will be driven by their customers.

Honda would rather concentrate on delivering the kind of economy customers can see and experience every day, whether driving with the heater and head lights on during the winter or with the stereo pumping and the air conditioning hard at work heat of the summer. These are the real world working environments in which the Insight has been designed to excel.

Honda has produced an affordable, efficient, exceptionally frugal and low emission car but there are styles and techniques of driving that can be employed to take even greater advantage of the hybrid technology. The Eco Assist system developed for the Insight, will train drivers, helping them achieve the best possible fuel economy.

The Insight's unique driver coaching system marks a new era of motoring where manufacturers and individual drivers share responsibility for their final fuel consumption.

Target Customers
Because the Insight is designed to bring hybrid technology to a wider audience, equally Honda expects the car to appeal to a broad customer base.

The majority of customers will be new-to-hybrid, traditional C-sector customers that are looking to replace their conventional family car with a more efficient one. They may have deemed a hybrid too expensive previously, but will appreciate the Insight's roomy proportions and low running costs, as well as the outright purchase price.

For the same reason, Honda expects some existing hybrid customers and owners of more conventional, low CO2 models to move across into the Insight, making the most of the advancements in cost-reducing technologies.

Sales Targets
Honda aims to sell 200,000 Insights each year.

Global sales are planned at 200,000 units with the US taking 100,000 of these cars.

As CEO and President, Mr Fukui has already announced, hybrids will make up 10 per cent of Honda's total car sales by the middle of the next decade and to achieve this target, Honda will also launch a sporty hybrid (based on CR-Z) and a Jazz Hybrid over the next few years. With these four hybrid cars, Honda is targeting to sell over 500,000 hybrids globally per year.

Hatchback Practicality and Aerodynamics
"The reason we chose a 5-door hatchback was that we wanted the car to be popular in Europe," says Yasunari Seki, Large Project Leader. "American Honda - the biggest market - asked us to build a car with a boot, but we insisted on a hatchback, because to compete with other green cars and sell more in Europe, it had to be a 5-door design. Of course, aerodynamically it is also a more favourable shape."

Exterior Styling
As a low emission hybrid car, it was important for the Insight's design to express its environmental credentials. It had to look like a ‘green' car but it also had to appear dynamic and fun to drive.

Above all, the Insight had to appeal to a broad range of people globally and another important factor related to this was the body style itself. Customer research showed that 5-door body shapes were most popular, and so this layout was chosen to appeal to as many people as possible.

Thirdly, the Insight takes many styling cues from the FCX Clarity. This was deliberate to position the Insight as a recognisable, global car with green credentials as well as the aerodynamic advantages of the body shape.

CO2 Emissions During Building, Use and Disposal
As a matter of course, Honda carries out a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Programme for all of its vehicles which looks at the CO2 emissions at each stage of a car's life cycle, including production.

Honda developed this programme in 2007 to introduce a product specific LCA system to investigate the volume of CO2 emissions associated with the whole life cycle of each Honda vehicle. This allows Honda to compare the environmental impact of the manufacturing stage and indeed the whole life cycle of their hybrid cars.

The findings demonstrated two things, the importance of the ‘use stage' in a car's life cycle CO2 emissions, and that there is very little difference between the CO2 emissions associated with the raw material and production stages of hybrids compared to conventional cars. This means that the overall CO2 emissions throughout the life of a hybrid vehicle will be significantly less than those of a conventionally powered car.

Where will the Insight be built?
The Insight will be produced at Honda's Suzuka factory in Japan where a new hybrid motor production line has been added to double the motor production capacity.

When does it go on sale?
The Insight will go on sale in European Market from Spring 2009.