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Environmentally-friendly Honda fails to capture WA public’s imagination

GREEN may be in but not in Western Australia, it seems. At least not for Honda buyers, when it comes to reducing vehicle exhaust emissions.

The Honda Insight, Australia’s first retail hybrid car, went on sale from Perth outlets in mid-March but not one firm order has been placed for the petrol-electric powered hatch.

A Honda spokesman said that, while people generally liked the cockpit-style sports car interior, they said the car ‘looked funny’ and thought it was a bit expensive.

“There’s a lot of technology. They don’t understand the technology in it,” the spokesman said.

With only two of the vehicles in WA, Honda Australia state manager Vince Randazzo blamed the zero sales on a supply problem.

“Enquiries have been strong,” he said, “but clients want to see, smell and drive the car. We hope to be able to have some test vehicles in Perth by the second week in May.”

Mr Randazzo said WA dealerships had missed out on the earlier cars as a consequence of distance and the unexpectedly large number of national dealers nominating to market the car.

Of the $48,900 price tag, Mr Randazzo confirmed that the new technology came at a price.

Honda is purely making a statement in terms of technology,” he said.

“We have the technology of the future and it is available right now.”

Honda Australia general manager sales Damien Meredith conceded WA had been disadvantaged without test vehicles, but did not see that as a problem for future sales.

“They’ve been a bit late arriving in the Perth market,” he said, “but we’re very pleased with our sales in Australia so far.”

However, Mr Meredith also confirmed customer reticence with the price.

“It’s certainly not a cheap car, but it says a lot about Honda and where we’re heading. Basically we all have to do something about fossil fuels,” he said

The company had expected to sell only 60 of the vehicles per year, but has already sold 16 in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland since the March 5 Australian launch. WA is expected to contribute six sales to the national target.

Honda expects to put the Insight technology into the popular Civic within 18 months.

The Insight is a two-seater, powered by a three-cylinder petrol engine and a 10 kilowatt electric motor.

The vehicle’s fuel economy could perhaps compensate a little for the price tag. When running on petrol, the vehicle’s average consumption is just 3.6 litres per 100 kilometres on a city cycle and 2.8 litres on the highway.

A Toyota Australia spokesperson said the company planned to release its first hybrid vehicle, the 1.5 litre Prius sedan, in Australia in early October.

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