Honda didn't have a very good experience when it sold its Accord hybrid in the U.S. from 2004 through 2008, but that's not discouraging the Japanese automaker from taking another shot at it.
This time around, they're proceeding more strategically. Auto News is reporting that when the two-motor plug-in electric-gasoline sedan arrives in the United States early next year, volumes will be small.
The reason: The hybrid version of the Accord currently made in Japan is better suited for Japanese consumers because the yen's strength against the dollar takes a big bite out of export profits, chief engineer Chitoshi Yokota told Japan's Nikkei Sangyo business daily.
That's why Honda has decided to start building the hybrid in the U.S. and Yokota says that could occur as early as 2015.
Hanse Greimel, Automotive News' Asia says Honda won't be able to expand the business unless it is able to procure and make the battery and the motor locally, maybe around 2015.
Another challenge, Yokota said, will be selling a hybrid variant of a car that also comes with a traditional gasoline powertrain.
Honda sold the Accord Hybrid from 2004 to 2008. It was discontinued because the added price premium didn't justify the relatively meager improvements in fuel economy.
When a car is a stand-alone hybrid with no gasoline variant to benchmark against, such as the Toyota Prius, such comparisons don't work against sales and marketing efforts.
"In the United States, hybrid-only models are selling better," Yokota said. "It is difficult to position a hybrid variant there as it is difficult for the U.S. consumer to see the merits of a hybrid when there are both petrol and hybrid models.