New Honda Fit Shuttle Hybrid Poised To Steal Prius Alpha Customers

Posted by Stephen On Friday, June 17th, 2011

As I reported at the end of May, Honda delayed the launch of the new Fit Shuttle from March 18th until mid-June due to both parts shortages and electrical power shortages in the Tokyo region. The move of production to the Suzuka factory in Mie Prefecture (central Japan), is now complete and the new models were launched on June 16th.

You can read more about the details of spec and equipment in the Honda press release here, but for me the story inside the story is the fact that the hybrid significantly undercuts Toyota’s Prius Alpha – the Honda starts at 1.81 million Yen, whereas the Prius Alpha’s cheapest version is 2.35 million Yen – and Honda seems to have thought through production issues more clearly than Toyota by moving production to Suzuka prior to launch.

The Fit Shuttle has a target of 4,000 sales per month, but with Prius Alpha customers being told that they could have to wait up to one year for delivery (meaning that they are likely to miss the EcoCar tax break which finishes March 31 2012), surely the significantly cheaper Fit Shuttle Hybrid is going to make some inroads into Toyota’s market share?

Honda already is geared up for sales of 4,000 cars per month (rather than the Prius Alpha’s target of 3,000), and Honda has also had the foresight to try to squelch production issues before they occur, so it seems that they are in a much better position to deal with strong demand than Toyota has been.

The Prius Alpha is a great car, but then you take into account a 500,000 Yen saving on list price, additional saving from the EcoCar tax break, and the simple fact that delivery time can be measured in weeks rather than years will certainly make the Fit Shuttle Hybrid a compelling package for many potential Prius Alpha customers.

Honda already has 7,000 pre-launch Shuttle orders on the books, and I, for one, am expecting Shuttle Hybrid to leapfrog the Prius Alpha in the medium term at least.

Watch the launch press conference below (in Japanese):

Source: Nikkei

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