American Honda Motors may point to a transitional availability of its subcompact Fit 5 door hatchback for falling sales in Novembers, I look to the price of gasoline.
Three years ago: The national news was full of doom and gloom reports as the world was supposedly running out of crude oil, resulting in a near historical, or should I say, hysterical retail gasoline pricing.
Shortly after the recession was called over, the futures price of crude oil began to fall. It now sits at near historic lows, as does the pump price of regular gasoline. As of this posting, it’s now being predicted by oil industry insiders that the “average” pump price of regular gasoline will drop below $2 per gallon, something that consumers in North America haven't seen since the winter of 2009.
Honda knew it was coming with the culling of the Insight Hybrid from the lineup
During the Miami introduction of 2016 Honda HR-V, I had the opportunity to speak in length with Honda’s environmental officer Angie Nucci and Honda Division Executive Vice President and General Manager Jeff Conrad about the future of Honda’s near zero emissions, and electric vehicle development.
At that time, Torque News was assured that Honda remained fully committed to both, as Honda discontinued Insight Hybrid imports to the U.S., and shifted Accord Hybrid and some 2016 Fit production back to Japan.
Last winter in Detroit at the media launch of “2015 The Year of Honda,” American Honda’s Executive Vice President of Sales John Mendel confirmed Honda’s commitment to the design and marketing of gasoline/electric hybrid and standalone plug-in EVs. ( Electric vehicles.)
Not this year
The all electric Fit is not available for sale or lease in North America, nor is the Fit hybrid. And, as of this posting one would be hard pressed to locate a 2015 or 2016 Honda Accord Hybrid for sale in the U.S.. Our Honda insider tells us that a next generation 2 motor Honda Accord Hybrid is well under development, as is the next generation Accord plug-in.
As to Civic and Acura ILX, we’ll have to wait until model year 2018 to see what Honda holds in store for the Civic based hybrid variants. I did experience the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, it’s amazing!
So what’s up Honda?
looking to Pacific Northwest dealership inventory for the month of December, we find very few if any 2015 or 2016 Honda Fit 5 door hatchbacks in stock.
Perhaps the production transition from North America to Japan is taking a bit longer than anticipated. Or, 2016 Honda HR-V sales have displaced buyer interest in Fit to the point of undermining 2016 Fit sales.
I believe that the market shift from the subcompact economy sector, to the compact-midsize sedan and red-hot crossover and SUV sector to be a sign of the times, and perhaps, the untimely U.S. market demise of the sub-compact Fit.
In rolls 2016 Honda HR-V
By introducing a coupe-like subcompact crossover featuring 2-row near flat deck versatility, and an all-wheel-drive option, Honda captures sales from all demographics looking to move up into SUV-like utility, while preserving sub-compact fuel economy. Although 2016 Fit does offer its own rather quirky flavor of visual appeal, greater fuel economy and hatchback utility, it doesn’t offer AWD in North America. And that’s a big consideration for buyers in most northern regions of Canada and the U.S..
In comes $2 gasoline
As earlier stated in this rather long-winded diatribe:The last time U.S. consumers enjoyed an average $2 per gallon regular unleaded gasoline price was March 2009. By March of the following year the price of gasoline had risen to $3.51 per gallon.
Back in late 2013, when I began my epic journalistic journey down the road with Honda, Accord Hybrid came to market, handily dethroning the king of MPG, Toyota Prius. Tokyo had a problematic Fit Hybrid, American Honda Motors didn’t import it.
At that time, Honda presented what in my view was and remains the finest Accord sedan produced to date. The problem? They were very hard to find, dealers were charging a premium for them, and - Accord doesn’t come with a hatchback variant in North America. Consumers further found the inflated MSRP of the Accord Hybrid to be a bit unjustifiable in view of a falling gasoline pump price.
Hybrid and EV takes a powder
In that same year Honda Insight was taken off the market, with Acura ILX and Civic Hybrid to follow. With the repair of the U.S. and world economy came increased new car sales to near previous recession numbers.
However, due to a precipitous decrease in the pump price of gasoline, the auto industry, including American Honda Motors, pulled back the reins on subcompact and compact gasoline/electric hybrid and plug-in EV production. And, looking to the numbers, subcompact 2016 Honda Fit production.
As great of a vehicle as Honda Fit may be, as long as there remains cheap and plentiful gasoline in the U.S., the subcompact car and hatchback segment will take a proverbial backseat to thirstier, more powerful V6 powered 2 and 3 row crossover and SUV offerings. For the entry level market, we look to the 10th generation 2016 Civic, and the all new 2016 Honda HR-V to carry the sales lead.
Don’t cry for Honda Fit: It’s still one of if not the most popular Honda hatchbacks in the world. I’ve spent much seat time in Honda Fit and consider it to be one of the top 10 car purchase values on the road today. Please catch my latest Fit review here.