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Honda launches cheapest hybrid

HONDA introduced yesterday the cheapest hybrid on the market, starting at 1.89 million yen (US$21,000) in Japan and under US$20,000 in the United States, hoping to turn around sluggish sales battered by the global downturn.

Even Honda Motor Co officials admitted the timing was tough for the Insight gas-electric hybrid, which hits showrooms in the middle of a devastating slump, especially in North America that's the main target market.

Also, oil prices have tumbled from their peak last July, detracting from the appeal of gas-sipping hybrids. Insight gets as much as 30 kilometers a liter, according to Honda.

"If the Insight had gone on sale a half year earlier, it would have been such a hot-seller," Norio Ano, who oversees auto matters at Honda, told The Associated Press.

The big appeal of the Insight, hybrid a five-door hatchback, is its pricing.

Details of overseas pricing are still undecided. But it's cheaper than Toyota Motor Corp's Prius, the top-selling hybrid, which sells for US$22,000 in the US and 2.3 million yen in Japan.

Hybrids are more costly than regular cars as they come with a gasoline engine and an electric motor.


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