With 2013 Honda Accord, Plug-in Option Hits Mainstream Model
Honda celebrated a banner sales month in December. In fact, 2012 was American Honda's fourth-best sales year ever, and its best sales result since 2008. This could be a good thing for plug-in cars because the company will begin selling the Accord Plug-in Hybrid in California and New York on January 15. The Accord will become the most popular passenger vehicle platform yet to offer a plug-in option.
The market for plug-in vehicles so far has mostly focused on new and unfamiliar vehicles, such as the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi i-MiEV—or models from start-up companies like Tesla, Fisker and Coda. These models could have the market’s most compelling features and benefits, but their novelty (and in some cases unconventional design) present an uphill battle for marketers. It’s tough to sell cars that people don’t see everyday—or don’t view as attractive and accessible. The Accord is about as accessible as you can get.
The plug-in Prius has been reasonably well received in a short period of time, in part because the Prius model is relatively well known to consumers. (However, the market persona of the Prius is decidedly green/alternative.)
Meanwhile, the Honda Accord in December 2012 was the third most popular passenger vehicle in America—only slightly trailing the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry. Yes, the Civic and Camry have both been available as conventional hybrids for about a decade, and their hybrid sales have not been stellar. But both of those vehicles have had to contend with the conventional Prius, which has dominated the hybrid market with much better fuel efficiency numbers, a competitive price, and decent space for five adults.
The 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid enters a plug-in car market that is more open to newcomers—if delivered with attractive features and pricing.
The Accord-with-plug gets the highest EPA MPGe rating in its class of 115 MPGe. On a full charge, the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid has an all-electric EV range of 13 miles and a fuel-economy rating of 47/46/46 mpg (city/highway/combined). It’s the first certified with the new SULEV20 emissions standard, the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, and already meets California's 2025 emissions requirements. Solo drivers of the Accord Plug-in Hybrid qualify for entry into California carpool lanes (if issued the appropriate decals).
Even a relatively small take-rate for the plug-in version of the Accord could mean a decent boost in the overall plug-in market—and wider exposure for cars that connect to the grid.
Commitment to the Plug
At the 2012 LA Auto Show, Honda announced that the new 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid, will start at $39,780—that’s fairly pricey but the federal tax credit is $3,334, with an additional rebate offered in California.
Honda could have a popular plug-in on its hands—but the company will have to show more commitment to the Accord Plug-in Hybrid than it has with its Fit EV, a lease-only vehicle. Merely 1,100 Fit EVs will be leased over a three-year period. Sales support and information has been minimal. So far, it looks like Honda is averaging about 25 to 40 deliveries of the Fit EV per month.
Nearly 30,000 sales of the gas-powered Accord leave dealerships every month (on a national basis). It will be fascinating to watch how much energy Honda puts toward sales of the plug-in Accord in California and New York in early 2013. That will be a good indication of Honda’s interest in plug-ins—and if fully supported with marketing and sales support—the ability for an ultra-popular model like the Accord to push 100-plus MPGe capability to mainstream motorists.
Honda won't have much time to establish its desire to be a top player in the plug-in hybrid market. While not quite as popular as the Accord, the conventional Ford Fusion is nonetheless mainstream. Ford sold nearly 20,000 units in December. The plug-in version of Ford's midsize sedan will arrive in "early 2013."
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