I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for this very combination of cars, but no luck so far. runningonfumes found them, and they make a a nice study in Honda’s two-passenger hybrids. I was very harsh on the CR-Z when it came out, calling it an “obese baby seal”, and comparing it to the AMC Gremlin. That might have been a bit over the top, but does tend to look front heavy, especially in dark colors.
And it certainly hasn’t been a sales success, stuck near the bottom of the charts since pretty much forever. Looking at Honda’s sales stats, through April 31 of 2013, only 1596 CR-Zs have found a home this year. But surprisingly, that’s even more than the current Insight, which really tumbled (from a low base), and found only 1552 buyers. OK; time to take that hat off and put on the CC hat. How about the original Insight? It was never a big seller, but it was cool in its day, with its ultra-light construction and 60 mpg capability. I know Steve Lang loved his.
I like the CR-Z’s look. But, it really needs the Juke’s engine (so does the Cruze, Matrix, tC, and Dart).
Hardly ever see a 1st gen Insight around here, but just yesterday I saw a red one.
Love them both. Now, if the new CR-Z just did 40+ in the mpg department when you’re not getting heavy on the throttle, I’d be real interested. They both offer something that no other hybrid has: A manual transmission.
That’s my only reason for interest in the CR-Z as well.
I’ve always thought an early manual Civic hybrid would be a fun project car–add some Si or Mugen suspension parts, and then try and keep up the momentum to put them to work…
Back in 2003 or 2004 I saw a similar scene of a 1st gen parked next to a CRX and realized how similar they are in side profile.
Some where awhile back on the gearhead blogosphere I saw a tuned up with a 1st gen Insight with a warmed up Integra motor. Now I just wish someone would swap a small 3 or 4 cyl diesel into one as a hypermiler “hot” rod.
I kinda liked the original Insights EV1-esque looks, it looked like something that should be a fuel miser. The original one was a slow seller too, a friend of mine worked for a local radio station that was giving one away, and it was a brand new LAST YEARS (we were well into the next calendar year already)model Insight that the dealer could never sell.
American’s just don’t buy 2 seaters unless the top goes down and even then it is a very limited market.
The Corvette seems to sell around 30k per annum in a healthy economy.
I believe the new OBS is the CR-Z (the one on the left), and the older is the Insight is on the right. Don’t know, not a big fan of these things.
One of the younguns in our office bought a new red 2012 CR-Z, but I think it was an auto. Younguns don’t know how to drive manuals. I guess it’s OK if you don’t have more than one friend.
As I recall, the Insight is an all aluminum monocoque. Even minor altercations in parking lots can total the thing. Insurance must be a real bitch.
Maybe I am not the best person to ask this (given my background that might sound carping) but here goes anyways.
We all know that Honda has found incredible success with the Accord and Civic models. Looking at these models and piggybacking on what Paul said in the write up about the lack of sales I took a closer look at Honda sales in general. I haven’t review all of the numbers discretely so some of this is conjectural.
Honda currently enjoys a 13% market share in its home market in Japan. Honda has about a 10% market share in the US. Since US automotive market is slightly larger, for the sake of argument, lets say Honda has equal sales in both. Honda’s market share in the US has risen from about 6% in 1990 when the Accord became a best selling car to the 10% it currently enjoys. The last figure I saw in Japan (without really digging) was Honda had about a 27% market share in the late 1970s. That is roughly a 50% drop in 30 years. Compared to Toyota, Honda sells far less cars outside of Japan and the US.
Of course Honda also sells a considerably amount of motorcycles which, without looking at their balance sheet, probably adds a significant amount to the bottom line.
Honda record of sales in product categories outside of the Civic and Accord (and since the Prelude disappeared) has been decidedly mixed.
The product mix that Honda sells in Japan favors smaller cars decisively. (Probably no surprise given that in a dense country like that smaller cars are favored but its still a worthy factor in the argument).
Taking all that into consideration, it is my observation that Honda has become dependent for the majority of its profits on sales of its Accord and Civic in the US and what they get from the motorcycles. It is an interesting dynamic given that I can think of no other broad line import nameplate so dependent on US sales.
I say that because you compare it to Toyota, Toyota does well in the US, but also dominates in its home market and also sells a considerably amount of its cars (mostly Corolla and small trucks) all around the world. So while the US is a key component, they are by no means a dominate part of the overall picture.
I am not suggesting that Honda is suffering as a company for this, but it is an interesting case study and perhaps worth of discussion. Especially given the continued globalization and consolidation of key players in the automotive industry.
Yeah Honda is in trouble…Fiat reckon a manufacturer needs to sell 6 million units to be viable..Fiat themselves are suffering in Europe..But Are making money in the USA on Chrysler and in Brazil with Fiat.
Honda doesn’t do well in South America or China..So they are in real trouble I’d say. Coupled with the fact that there new models are not desirable. The accord doesn’t sell in Europe..And I don’t see that many Hondas around near me anymore.
They have spent millions on making a private jet and Asimo the robot.
And are about to spend Lots on re entering Formula 1 motorsport.
They are definately a company at a crossroads.
Like you say it ‘s the motorcycle. landmower and powerboat engine business, that is keeping them open.
If they want to have a future in the motor industry, they need to revamp their product.
In the uK Hondas are either bought by the retired or the Hot hatch Brigade.
Honda , don’t have a hot hatch to sell in the UK. And have probably lost that market to the French (Renault) and VW golf GTI. and Ford, with the focus ST and new Fiesta ST. So If they don’t turn it around soon..I suspect they will either have to merge, or they slowly disappear as an auto maker
I can’t say anythng about Honda’s non-US sales, but they’re way more than an “Accord and Civic” company.
CR-Vs sell like hotcakes. Don’t forget Pilot and Odyssey.
We’re a two Honda family. 2010 CR-V and 2012 Civic EX sedan. Partly this is due to their good products, but also on the strength of our dealer experience.
My former Civic was a 2009 Civic Hybrid sedan. I lucked into it because it was the spring of ’09 and car sales for all manufacturers were abysmal. Got it on a pretty good lease deal. My first new car. To me, it was a miniature Cadillac. Leather seats and climate control. All of the other amenities that mattered to me, with very little that I considered superfluous. Pretty solid 42 – 44 MPG. Compared to my former ride, a 2000 Malibu sedan, I’d say about a 15 MPG improvement. LOVED thumbing my nose, driving past the high-priced gas stations!!
Fast-forward to the Spring of ’12 and the car market had greatly improved. When it was time to trade in the hybrid, they only had one in stock. It was top of the line in a color I didn’t like, and they weren’t cutting as good of a deal as before. I would’ve loved another Civic hybrid, but it just wasn’t in the cards.
If Toyota would get over the weird Prius interior with the center mounted instrumentation and offer one with an actual trunk, I might give one a shot next time around.
Meanwhile the ’12 Civic is pretty hard to not like. Solid 35 MPG combined. I’ve reached the low 40s on trips.
One morning, not too long ago, I was travelling down I-71 in Columbus and noticed I was driving three abreast with two other ’12 Civics! Central Ohio is the Honda Mecca!
Full disclosure… I was raised on GM and secretly wish my current ride carried a Chevrolet badge.
I forgot the Fit.
There’s no question that Hinda has become highly dependent on US sales, beyond even the sales stats you mention. That’s because the US market is dramatically more profitable that just the market shares you give indicate. The Japanese market is very small-car oriented, and very competitive, and profit margins are undoubtedly small.
In the US, Honda has the scale to generate massive profits on its main lines. And as PRNDL pointed out, that’s well more than the Accord and Civis. The CRV, Odyssey, and Pilot undoubtedly have higher margins than the passenger cars.
I remember reading a few years back that Honda was generating some 90% of its profit in the US, and I find that very believable. Maybe they should move their company headquarters to Marysville, Ohio?
Obviously, this makes them vulnerable too. No doubt, the rise of Hyundai/Kia has come at Honda’s expense to a considerable amount. Instead of growing, they’re holding on to their share. But they better keep it, because if it starts shrinking, then they are in trouble.
Yes its an interesting case study in how a company can “migrate” from its home country. Call it the Jerry Lewis effect.
I wonder if in another 10-15yrs GM will be a company with the bulk of its profit and sales in China but with the HQ in the US.
What a catch! Had there been a CRX out front, the trifecta would have been complete. Honda could never get away from that 2 seater concept featuring a tight wheelbase, horizontal or near horizontal rear window and that mailbox type window on the rear Kamm tail.
That photo is quite a catch, two rare cars on the street together. I recently took some CC shots of the 1st-gen Insight belonging to a friend of Lily’s. It’s logged way over 100K miles so far. Someday I’ll do a proper CC.
Honda rushed the Insight into production as soon as they found out Toyota would bring the Prius to America. Insight came out about 9 months and one model year ahead of the US Prius, so Honda can lay claim to “first US hybrid” of the modern era. Since CVCC Honda positioned themselves as the environmental car company, always with the cleanest exhausts and nearly always best US mileage.
But Honda had not been doing its homework. Insight has a simple motor/generator where the flywheel goes, between a small but conventional engine and transmission. All it can do is boost the three-pot engine, let it stop on idle, and collect regenerative braking energy. Nothing like Toyota’s fully-integrated dual motor/gen Atkinson-cycle full hybrid. Much of the 2000 Insight’s fuel economy (53 mpg EPA) came from its very light weight, just 1850 lb (840 kg). Only two seats and lots of aluminum. 2001 Prius (46 mpg EPA) was an all-steel 4-door sedan weighing 2900 lb.
You can see what a hurry Honda was in with a look under the hood: check out the box section across the firewall.
2000 Insight’s a neat car, and I love that fender skirt styling. But it cost too much to build and delivered too little value for a world of 4-door sedans. Another example of how Honda lost its way after founder Soichiro Honda passed away.
The first gen Prius did use a fair am]mount of weight saving technology to offset the 500lb gorilla that is the Hybrid Synergy drive. One example is the magnesium front seat frames.
Mike – before you do a proper CC on the 1st generation Insight, you should do some more research first. The enthusiast owners’ website, Insight Central, is a great resource.
The Insight’s engine was far from conventional. For example, in addition to light weight, low friction components, the manual transmission car had a lean burn capability and has been measured as operating with a mixture of 26 (air) to 1 (fuel). This made a significant contribution to its 70mpg rated highway economy (61 city).
It seems Honda went all out to make the Insight as fuel efficient as possible. Light weight was a part of that, but they worked hard to not sacrifice safety in doing so. Honda developed knowledge learned from building the NSX to make a light but strong aluminium structure. Numerous other weight saving components (for example the particular type of VTEC and the gearbox) are also unique to the Insight.
Being a two seater (and without the performance that would appeal to most sports car buyers) the original Insight was never going to be a big seller, but using it as a fuel economy “halo” car and test bed for technology used in more conventional vehicles to follow seems a reasonable strategy – even though it hasn’t worked out that well for them (as these things often don’t).
I imagine one problem is that they can’t get Prius like economy by using all the Insight’s weight saving tricks (and still be price competitive) and Honda seems to have been unable to make up the difference by developing its hybrid system to be as efficient as Toyota’s. That’s a problem in a market segment that sells mostly on fuel economy. I don’t think anyone outside of Honda knows the full story as to why they don’t use the same hybrid system as Toyota, but it seems unlikely that they’re just sulking (or failing to do their “homework”).
I also think it’s too simplistic to say that Honda lost its way after Soichiro Honda died in 1991. For example, the NSX was developed under his leadership and released in 1990, but it hasn’t formed the basis for a “dynasty” in the high performance sports car market. Maybe a big part of Honda’s problem in the hybrid market is that the Prius is just so good!
I always say that the original Insight got great MPG despite it being a “hybrid” not because of it. Can you say magnesium oil pan, that you better be careful with when changing the oil and watch out for road debris as they are very easy to damage and very expensive to replace. That lean burn is one of the other reasons they got such great MPG but to be able to run that lean and still meet emissions standards they have a special storage catalyst (read extremely expensive) and they periodically run pretty rich to light off that cat and burn the stored pollutants. Honda spent a ton of money buying that best in the US MPG rating and I’m sure were very happy that they didn’t sell worth a darn.
I drove the original Insight once. What I remember was that it was slow, extremely noisy and because of the LRR tires very hard riding. You can get 90% of the efficiency in a modern VW TDI without any of the sacrifices. Technology marches on.
There may well be a problem with performance on the Insight. But I think Toyota read the prospective buyer better; and came up with a more fitting “package.” Distinctive, yet functional.
The Insight looks aimed at the young male rake, looking to stand out in a New Technologies sort of way. Sadly for the program, young males of that mindset tend not to have deep interest in either ecology, socio-political statements in that area, or in new highly-efficient but low-performance technologies.
I like them both, the original Insight always reminded me of a Citroen. Seems to be little demand OR marketing of the CR-Z by Honda. The dealers don’t even stock brochures. I know because a friend was considering one and I was trying to get info. None of the dealers in the Quad Cities had a brochure; nor the one in Iowa City. You’d think I had asked for a Corvette brochure…
Honda lost me after my 92 Prelude experience. I think they are really trying to be a mid priced car. The days of relatively cheap but fun simple cars are over. Seems like the Koreans occupy that market now.
I live a neighborhood full of curbside classics! There’s a nice Gen1 Insight around the corner from me. And a white CR-Z a few blocks up the street.
Would you like me to take some photos, Paul…?