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PHOTO CAPTION: Honda's new Insight hybrid is expected to cost less than the Prius.

Honda's Hybrid Will Take On Prius

Analysts expect the model will cost less than $20,000, undercutting the current $22,000 starting price of the Prius.

Published: 02-Oct-2008

Global auto makers are rushing to challenge the dominance of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius hybrid with a slew of ecofriendly vehicles. But Honda Motor Co. is likely to pose the most formidable threat to Toyota when it unveils its new Insight hybrid car Thursday at the Paris Auto Show.

Honda is betting that the five-passenger hatchback, set to go on sale next spring, will steal away Prius buyers by delivering greenness for fewer greenbacks. Honda has yet to disclose many details about the car or its cost, and it calls the car to be shown in Paris a concept, but it says Insight "will be priced significantly lower than hybrids available today." Analysts expect the model will cost less than $20,000, undercutting the current $22,000 starting price of the Prius.

"It will be the first affordable hybrid for everyone," says Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst for UBS Securities Research in Tokyo.

New hybrid models are also on the way from Nissan Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., among others. But Honda and Toyota have an advantage thanks to their substantial lead in developing hybrid technology, analysts say. Toyota, including its luxury brand Lexus, had a 79% share of the U.S. hybrid car and light-truck market in the January-August period this year, according to Autodata Corp. Honda was a distant second with 11% of the market, followed by Ford with 6%.

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