Honda Further Undercuts Prius With New Base Insight
By Chris Haak
Honda’s second-generation Insight, which is based heavily upon the Fit’s architecture, but without the conventional car’s peppy drivetrain or much of its sporty handling, has not been a sales success for Honda so far. While the company initially hoped to sell 60,00o Insights annually in the US, sales have been barely over a quarter of that number, with 17,789 units sold through the first ten months of 2010, against 17,530 units sold during the first ten months of 2009. Meanwhile, the Prius is whooping the Insight in terms of sales: Toyota’s standard-bearer has moved 115,065 so far this year (again, through October 31) and 118,290 during the same period last year.
So does Honda’s solution involve developing a trick new hybrid system, tossing out the underperforming IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) mild hybrid system? Nah, instead they just stripped content from the car to lower its price point.
The resulting “base Insight” has some curious equipment selections. Honda took the Insight LX, removed Bluetooth, nice seat fabric, and a couple of stereo speakers. The Insight now has just two speakers, unless a buyer steps up to the higher-priced LX and EX. But in spite of the content cutting, the base car includes remote keyless entry, stability control, ABS, automatic climate control, power windows, and a CD player. Isn’t it odd to see a car with power windows and automatic climate control, but with two measly speakers for its audio system? Most likely, Honda found the Insight’s lack of sales success surprising, and hadn’t planned on the need to engineer loss-leader options like manual windows and manual climate control.
For all this de-contenting, Honda is asking $18,950 (including destination). The base Insight now undercuts the Prius by $4,610, although that is not a figure that accounts for equipment differences; the base Prius is better equipped and gets better fuel economy than does the base Insight. Honda also announced pricing on the Insight LX (which now includes cruise control, USB audio interface, armrest console, floor mats, and two more speakers for the stereo (for a total of four), and it comes in at $20,650, which is just a $100 increase over the 2010’s price. The EX now costs $22,940, which is a $190 increase over 2010 levels. Honda gives EX buyers two more speakers (now six total), alloy wheels, steering wheel paddle shifters, and heated side mirrors. The Insight EX is also the only one that can be purchased with Honda’s optional navigation system.
When we reviewed the Insight last year, we were left somewhat unimpressed by the car. It gave the distinct vibe of being a really cheap car with a somewhat-expensive drivetrain. The 2011 base Insight will still have the same drivetrain, but one has to believe that the de-contenting will only serve to further emphasize the economy car impression that the car leaves the driver with.