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Honda bets mileage premium won’t hurt hybrid Accord sales

Bloomberg, Kyodo

Honda Motor Co. on Thursday unveiled a hybrid sedan at a 20 percent higher price than Toyota Motor Corp.’s gasoline-electric Camry, betting drivers will pay extra for fuel economy.

The hybrid Accord goes on sale Friday in Japan with the sticker price starting at ¥3.65 million, Japan’s third-largest carmaker said in a statement. That’s ¥610,000 more than the ¥3.04 million dual-powered Camry. The U.S. Accord model, whose price hasn’t been disclosed, is scheduled for sale in the fall.

“Hybrid cars will be the mainstream of environment technologies for a couple of decades from now,” Honda President Takanobu Ito said in Tokyo.

Honda’s flagship sedan, outsold by the Camry in the U.S. every year since 2002, seeks to build on the success it has had this year by improving gas mileage. U.S. deliveries of the Accord have jumped 23 percent this year, compared with a 5.5 percent drop for the Camry.

“It’s definitely a good strategy, with consumers looking for the best possible fuel economy that meets size, room,” requirements, said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for auto researcher Kelley Blue Book. “The Accord is doing phenomenally well, and with the addition of the hybrid, Honda will see a nice boost.”

Camry has topped the Accord in U.S. sales for 11 years, a gap that narrowed to 22 percent last year from 31 percent in 2011.

The Hybrid Accord has a fuel-efficiency rating of 30 km per liter under Japan’s JC08 testing standards, according to Honda. Toyota says the Camry hybrid travels 23.4 km per liter.

Honda can demand a premium for the Accord hybrid because it is at the top of the carmaker’s line, said Takeshi Miyao, an industry analyst at Carnorama Japan. Instead of only comparing the car against Toyota’s Camry, consumers may also compare it with the Lexus, he said.

The Lexus IS hybrid starts at ¥4.8 million in Japan, according to the carmaker’s website.

“The Accord is Honda’s high-end, flagship model,” Miyao said. “So if consumers compare it against the Lexus IS Hybrid, they may view it as a good, reasonably priced car.”

GM tops Lexus for first time in J.D. Power quality survey

JIJI
NEW YORK

Toyota Motor Corp.’s prestigious Lexus brand has been surpassed by a General Motors Co. vehicle for the first time in J.D. Power & Associates’ initial quality rankings, the U.S. research company said Wednesday.

The luxury brand’s absence from the top spot is the first in three years. It was knocked down to third place by GMC, the U.S. giant’s large-vehicle brand, which leaped into second place from 12th last year.

GM has been making efforts to improve large models, its strong suit, after focusing on revamping weak areas in its small vehicle and environment-friendly vehicle segments.

The rankings signal that U.S. automakers are rapidly narrowing the quality gap with their Japanese rivals.

Germany’s Porsche ascended to the top spot from second place last year, but GM captured top positions in seven of the 23 vehicle segments covered in the survey, compared with two for Toyota.

In the survey, about 83,000 drivers who have purchased or leased 2013 models were asked about problems they experienced with the vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership.