Honda to abandon hybrids for diesel?

accord sales data

Is this the sales profile of a fuel hogging SUV, or a hybrid? Answer — the hybrid version of the Honda Accord. Source: GreenCarCongress

The latest sales data for the Accord Hybrid bring another disappointing, down month (17% for the month, 48% for the year) for the hybrid version of America’s most popular car. For comparison, the Prius hit the Accord’s monthly sales in the first 17 hours of April!

GreenCarCongress is now reporting that Honda is canning the hybrid Accord, and instead focusing their energies on clean diesel. We discussed VW’s new “clean TDI” Jetta two weeks ago, and it appears that Honda maybe following a similar strategy. The 2009 Accord will include a diesel engine that also meets the Tier-2 bin-5 emissions standards (translation: street legal in California). For biodiesel enthusiasts, this would mean two mainstream, popular cars available in diesel versions.

On the flip side, this is a bit of a sad chapter for the company that built the Insight, the first full hybrid and the production car with the highest gas mileage ever. One question on our minds — with many academic studies showing that “vehicle image” underscores the purchase decisions for Prius, will Honda be bold enough to give the new green diesels a distinctive look?

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  1. Steve - June 6, 2007

    Unfortunately, Honda’s hybrid Accord wasn’t truly designed to be as fuel efficient as, say, a Prius or Civic hybrid. The electrical system put in the Accord was meant to increase the performance of the V6, especially 0-60 times. Given this, I’m not surprised that sales of this car were disappointing. It wasn’t ever meant to truly be a gas miser like other cars.

  2. Oscar - June 6, 2007

    With what, 1 mile per gallon greater efficiency than the standard gasoline Accord, it was never going to be much of a success. Honda aimed this vehicle at those who would buy a hybrid solely for the (undeserved) tax credits and the image of driving a “green” vehicle.

  3. taylor - June 6, 2007

    Like others I am not surprised by the cancelation of the accord hybrid, however, I hgope that at some point HOnda will consider combining a diesel engine with hybrid capability. Why almost know one is doing this I don’t understand (from a previous post here a year ago I did learn Renualt may come with one soon)especially given the efficiency possibilities, and with gas likely to hit $4 in US in the next year it would seem to be a great selling point.

  4. richard schumacher - June 6, 2007

    Gasoline versus Diesel doesn’t much matter. Toyota’s HSD power split transmission is better than any conventional mechanical transmission. They, and their licensees, have the market locked up until the advent of energy storage good enough to allow pure series hybrids or all-electric vehicles.

  5. Robert - June 6, 2007

    I recently opted for a VW Golf TDI. I run Biodiesel (BD) 99 in it which is pretty easily obtained here in Southern California. I decided against a hybrid for 2 reasons; 1st I would be getting better gas mileage. I get on avg. 50 MPG even city driving and most importantly 2, I would be supporting the farmers and not OPEC any longer.
    True, BD is not a clean as a hybrid but it is much better than old-school diesel and right there along side most PZEVs.

  6. Greg - June 6, 2007

    I believe the switch to bio-diesel is a great idea. It is cleaner than gasoline, easier to manufacture and gives better fuel economy. We should look to Europe. They made the switch a long time ago. If I could get my hands on a VW TDI, I would do it in a heart beat. Even the military uses bio-diesel and it is better for the environment. Let’s do this right and make the switch.

  7. veektor - June 6, 2007

    -I drove a manual-transmission diesel Fiat (a bit larger than a Ford Focus wagon) for two weeks in Europe last year. It gave 41 mpg (American conversions) during fairly spirited driving in the country and a fair amount of lower-speed high-demand driving in the city. At night, however, we did notice a fair amount of smoke when looking in the rear view mirror if we hit the accelerator. We owned a l987 Mercedes diesel for nearly a decade and although the engine seldom gave us any problems, the rest of the car was a huge maintenance pit (we averaged about $400/month over the last two years of its life), so be careful with what kind of car you buy (a Honda Accord should be significanlty less costly to maintain than our Mercedes was).
    -The Europeans seem as concerned about their environment as we, and contrary to the Sierra Club position, I do not recall seeing any hard data suggesting Europe (with its high diesel use) has more environmental degradation than we have.

    -An Accord diesel would be very tempting, and I do not think it would necessarily be a sad chapter for Honda at all.

    -We have owned a Ford Escape hybrid for over two years now and have not had a single problem with it. By last year, we made enough money in tax rebates and driving costs to pay for the extra cost of the hybrid. As with Honda, consumers have not caught on to the Ford hybrid, and Honda or Ford can hardly be blamed for lowering production of the car if so few people want to buy them.

  8. Diane - June 6, 2007

    I was SO angry when the hybrid Accord came out! I’ve been very happy with my 1994 Accord EX – it’s the somewhat more powerful 4-cylinder version, and it has done everything I’ve wanted for the last 13 years. So I was excited about the hybrid version – until I learned that it got exactly the same mileage as my old car, with ALL the hybrid advantage going to DOUBLE the horsepower compared to mine.

    So, I have no particular opinion on the diesel issue (now that it’s so much cleaner), but Honda got what it deserved on the why-did-they-make-it-a-hybrid Accord.

  9. meagen - June 6, 2007

    i just saw an insight on the highway, and despite my affinity for small cars and honda, the thing looks like a toy car. it’s just ugly, and u.s. consumers are way too superficial to buy it, even for the environment. just my opinion.

  10. Brian - June 6, 2007

    I agree with disappointment of Honda’s strategy for the Accord Hybrid. Overall, Honda is an innovator in this area, but sometimes, makes mistakes. (The Honda pickup truck is also rather silly (like the GM Avalanche) in that it does not carry much.) But the last note on the Insight gets me riled. I bought one a month ago and think it is great. From a technical/engineering point of view, it is beautiful. The Ontario gov’t just gave Ford $50 million supposedly for research into how to make cars lighter. They could have bought and given to Ford an Insight which demonstrates what is required; light weight, aerodynamic design, small area into the wind, avoiding an engine too large, manual transmission, plus the hybrid system itself. Insight gets about double the gasoline mileage of our 2004 Civic.

  11. Adam - June 6, 2007

    I agree with the judgements on the hybrid Accord. Hybrid drivetrains can essentially draw more energy from each gallon of gas. In the Accord, Honda chose to direct that energy toward faster acceleration as opposed to greater mileage. Lexus is doing the same thing with its hybrids. This is all fine and dandy, but occasionally a company makes a mistake or two when analyzing its market. I would love to see a 50mpg Honda Accord in the future, regardless of what fuel it burns. A green Accord may sell better than a hot rod one.

  12. Steve - June 6, 2007

    As a guy who used to write for automotive publications and a few websites, I first reported on hybrid technology in 2002. I was baffled as to why everyone was so gung-ho on a vehicle that is heavier than its gasoline-powered counterpart, utilizes limited-lifecycle batteries that are extremely hard on the environment (with mining, production, and destruction), barely delivers better fuel economy than a similarly equipped gas model, and requires a much longer return on investment due to an inflated sticker price.
    I’d consider myself to be an environmental conservationist – I’ve taken many steps to leave a smaller “footprint,” but the one thing I’ll never do is buy a hybrid that’s based on current technology. Sure, in theory it can get incredible mileage and emit fewer emmissions, but in reality, it’s just as hard (if not harder) on our envoirnment than ULEV gas-powered vehicles are.
    Just my $0.02…

  13. Anonymous - June 6, 2007

    are there any diesel hybrids?
    is that even possible?
    i would love an electric/bio vehicle- especially if it were as cute as the smartcars of Europe or the zippy Tata cabs all over India.

  14. Jim - June 6, 2007

    Does anybody know if there are hybrid diesels on the market? This makes sense to me (for now) and seems like a good move forward.

  15. Tracy - June 6, 2007

    “Sure, in theory it can get incredible mileage and emit fewer emmissions, but in reality, it’s just as hard (if not harder) on our envoirnment than ULEV gas-powered vehicles are.”
    Is this still your $.02 or do you have a source?

  16. WhiteRabbit - June 7, 2007

    I’d love to see your evidence on why hybrids are worse for the environment! Your points:
    1) Limited lifecycle batteries: A myth. The batteries are designed to last the life of the car. There are actual Priuses out there with 230K+ miles on the original battery pack with no problems. You’re probably more likely to have the body rust through from age and wear before your battery pack goes.
    2) Battery destruction: another myth. The hybrid battery packs are recycled. This has even been discussed on this site before. Yes, extra resources were used to create the batteries in the first place, but compared to the total metal (also mined, by the way) in the car, how significant is it? My battery pack weighs 90 pounds, and they are only getting lighter. That’s what, less than 5% of the metal in the car? Yeah, OK, it counts, but weigh it against the reduced fuel use.
    3) Barely better mileage? The Accord, sure. But not all hybrids! I replaced my (already fuel efficient 1991) 4-cylinder Accord with a Prius, and doubled my mileage. Real world numbers, verified by gas pump and odometer logging (I’m an engineer!), doubled. 100% improvement.
    4) “In theory, it gets better emissions”. No, in reality it does. In the EPA emissions numbers, based on measurements of this wacky thing called physical reality, it emits way less pollutants than even a modern “clean” engine.
    Yes, hybrids need improvements, and I think they are a first step towards all-electric cars, the technology for which, by the way, hybrids are already making better and cheaper to produce. But they ARE the next step, loads better than anything else currently available given the atmospheric problems we’re facing now.
    I’m still waiting impatiently for PHEV’s, and pushing for a cleaner grid to power them all.

  17. Nobuta - June 7, 2007

    There are a few reports and news that some automakers such as Toyota and GM (yes, you read it right) are working on mass produced PHEVs.
    Personally, I try not to drive for most of the time. Only when I have to. I drive VW TDI Beetle (manual shift) on B100 biodiesel.
    Study confirms that TDI with B100 is much greener car than Prius that still relies on blood tainted gasoline.
    There should be more choices of transportation in terms of fuel types and size of a vehicle. Gasoline, biodiesel, HEV, PHEV, and 100% electric should be have its place in the market for now.
    Ultimately though, the goal is to make all transportation 100% electric with clean grid power.
    Just for your information, I’m working to commercialize a motor/generator that produces surplus electricity when turns. Working prototypes are made already. We just need some $20 million of wirking capital to commercialize it. Is anyone interested?

  18. disdaniel - June 7, 2007

    Nobuta says “We just need some $20 million of wirking capital to commercialize it. Is anyone interested?”
    Darn it, I could have sworn I left a $20 million bill in my windbreaker…ok just a minute, maybe it fell in between the couch cushions.