Honda to Speed up Roll-out of Hybrids

Will introduce the CR-Z hybrid sports utility vehicle in February 2010 in Japan

Honda Motor plans to accelerate the launch of its hybrid vehicles, seeking to adapt quickly to changing customer demands, group president Takanobu Ito said on July 13.

Honda will bring forward the launch of the CR-Z hybrid sports utility vehicle to February 2010 in Japan, said Ito, who took the reins last month.

The company's hybrid technology, the "Integrated Motor Assist" which was introduced in the first generation of Honda's Insight hybrids a decade ago, will also be installed in its global best-selling compact Fit car, he added.

The Fit hybrid will hit the market in October next year.

"With regards to four-wheeled vehicles, we would like to concentrate efforts on how to quickly expand hybrid vehicles," Ito said.

Honda earlier this year rolled out a revamped model of its flagship fuel-sipping Insight, which was the best-selling hybrid in April in Japan before being overtaken by rival Toyota's remodelled Prius.

Sales of "green" cars have surged since April here in part due to government tax incentives, making them the most popular vehicles.

Amid a worldwide downturn which has seen customers become more attracted to affordable and fuel-efficient vehicles, causing heated rivalry among carmakers, Honda is increasingly focusing on developing its hybrid prowess.

The maker is developing ways to adapt the same hybrid technology to mid- and larger-sized vehicles while enlarging their motors in order to improve mileage, Ito said. But he declined to say when the new cars would be ready.

The company, like many other Japanese exporters, is feeling the squeeze from a strong yen as well as the slow pace of recovery in major markets in the U.S. and Europe.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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