TORRANCE, California — American Honda is tossing in the towel on its Honda Civic Hybrid, a perennial runner-up to Toyota's popular gas-electric Prius, and also has ceased production of its natural gas Civic.
In their place, the company will concentrate on the upcoming Honda fuel cell car, to be launched in early 2016, and on a new battery-electric car and a new plug-in hybrid car to be introduced by 2018. Both will use variations of Honda's two-motor gas-electric hybrid powertrain, now used on the Honda Accord Hybrid. It is a more powerful system than that used on the Civic Hybrid.
The new vehicles will be part of a "dedicated lineup" of electrified vehicles under the Honda brand, said John Mendel, head of American Honda's automobile division.
The automaker also will introduce a redesigned Honda Accord Hybrid in 2016, he said.
Honda intends to move away from vehicles built for limited sales in California, whose ZEV Mandate requires automakers to produce so-called zero-emissions vehicles, in favor of "vehicles our consumers want to purchase," Mendel said. While its fuel cell car initially will be sold only in California, Honda is one of several major car companies that see the technology expanding into all 50 states.
Although U.S. consumers have purchased about 200,000 Civic Hybrids since the model was first introduced in 2002, its sales pale by comparison to those of the standard Civic.
An all-new 2016 Civic to be introduced next year is expected to offer combined highway and city fuel economy in excess of 40 mpg. That would make the 45-mpg Civic Hybrid an expensive alternative for consumers for relatively little gain, resulting in the decision to discontinue the model.
The Civic Natural Gas — the only factory-produced sedan with a dedicated compressed natural gas fuel system — has seen little public acceptance, mainly because of the paucity of retail natural gas fueling stations outside of Southern California. In the past year, Honda has sold only 700 of the cars.
Sales of plug-in hybrid and EVs account for less than 1 percent of the market but have remained fairly stable over the past year as gasoline prices have dropped. Sales of conventional hybrids, however, have plunged along with fuel prices — and those relatively low gas prices are expected to hang around for most of the coming year.
Honda wants to tie its "green car'" wagon to a line of vehicles that is less dependent on fuel price fluctuations.
Edmunds says: Honda isn't giving up its clean car efforts, but it sees more of a future in hydrogen fuel-cell and plug-in electric vehicles than in standard hybrids and other alternative fuels.