TORRANCE, California — Production of the Honda Fit electric car stopped last fall, but to satisfy continuing demand for the EV, Honda now will offer a discounted two-year extended lease on the 1,100 subcompact hatchbacks it did make.
The new offer, $199 a month for two years with unlimited mileage and no down payment, was announced this morning and is being extended to all present Fit EV lessees.
The car initially was marketed only in California and Oregon, but used Fit leases will be offered in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York as well.
If any of the cars are returned when the original three-year leases begin expiring in July, Honda's participating dealerships will lease them as used vehicles to all comers at the same terms. The leases also will include routine maintenance and collision insurance to cover the expensive electric powertrain.
Although EV batteries degrade over time, losing capacity and thus lowering the distance the cars can travel on each charge, the Fit EVs will be only three years old. Honda's battery manufacturer has said the Fit battery pack, rated at 82 miles of range by the EPA, should still retain more than 80 percent of its capacity at the end of 4,000 charging cycles. That's almost 11 years if the battery is fully depleted and recharged once a day.
Honda's original lease terms warrantied the battery for the life of the lease, and the used Fit EVs will carry the same warranty.
Honda began leasing the all-electric version of the Fit in 2012 at $389 a month and saw limited interest from consumers, although critics gave the sporty EV generally good reviews.
Activity picked up in mid-2013 when Honda — noting that other carmakers were beginning to discount EV leases — dropped the lease rate to $299 a month and removed the cap on annual mileage.
Although by mid-2014 many of its EV dealers were reporting waiting lists for the electric Fit, Honda had only scheduled a two-year, limited production plan for the battery-dependent EV and ended production last fall as it shifted its interest to hydrogen fuel-cell electric cars.
The Fit EV was produced as a "compliance car," meant to give Honda the minimum number of EVs it needed to meet requirements of California's zero-emissions vehicles regulations, commonly called the ZEV Mandate.
Honda also has purchased millions of dollars worth of ZEV credits from Tesla Motors and is likely in good shape for 2015 without new EVs to lease.
Honda — along with Toyota and Hyundai — is betting that California's commitment to installing hydrogen fuel stations throughout the state will boost interest in fuel-cell electric vehicles beyond the levels attained by battery EVs.
Edmunds says: Fit EVs also qualify for single-occupancy use of California's carpool lanes, a perk many a commute-weary driver may consider a real steal at $199 a month.