Tokyo--Honda wants to price its Insight hybrid hatchback under $20,000 in the United States and may consider building it there if annual North American sales stabilize at its lofty target of 100,000 units.
Both goals will be tough for the Japanese carmaker, which starts selling the five-passenger gasoline-electric car in the United States in April as a challenge to the popular Toyota Prius.
The yen's recent surge against the dollar makes the $20,000 sticker price a stretch, while the global financial crunch and falling gasoline prices will likely undermine demand.
Speaking at the Japanese launch of the vehicle Thursday, Feb. 5, Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo said Honda Motor Co. aims for a Stateside price of less than $20,000.
Late last year, when Honda unveiled its domestic target price of under ¥2 million, it came to around $19,000. But the yen's climb has pushed that dollar-denominated price closer to $23,000. Getting the sticker price below that of the Prius is seen as the key to the Insight's success.
The Prius starts at $22,000 in America and ¥2.3 million ($25,000) in Japan. In January, Toyota sold 8,121 Priuses in the United States, down 28.6 percent from January 2008.
At the Insight's launch, Honda President Takeo Fukui said he will consider manufacturing the car overseas if volume in North America reaches a consistent 100,000 units a year.