• The Associated Press

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Honda has taken 18,000 orders for its hybrid Insight since the model hit the domestic market about a month ago, outpacing its target and underlining the success of the new affordable and ecological vehicle, the carmaker said Tuesday.

The brisk demand for the gas-electric hybrid is a rare piece of good news for Honda Motor Co. as the auto industry grapples with plunging global demand.

Japan’s second-biggest automaker was hoping for monthly Insight sales to reach 5,000 vehicles.

The Insight starts at ¥1.89 million in Japan and will sell for under $20,000 in the United States, the cheapest hybrid on the commercial market. The Insight goes on sale in April in the U.S. and at the end of this month in Europe.

Oil prices have tumbled from their peak last July, detracting from the possible appeal of gas-sipping hybrids. But the Insight is drawing a wide range of buyers to the showroom, Honda said.

The Insight was the top-selling hybrid for February in the ranking of new vehicle registrations in Japan, totaling 4,906, or No. 10 among all hybrid and regular models, even though it wasn’t on sale for the full month.

That outpaced the Toyota Prius hybrid, at No. 12 with 4,524 registered for the month, and cumulatively the best-selling hybrid model.

While details of the Insight’s overseas pricing have yet to be finalized, it’s cheaper than the Prius, which runs $22,000 in the U.S. and ¥2.3 million in Japan.

Toyota, which sold 285,700 Prius cars worldwide last year, is introducing a bigger and more powerful model in May that is likely to be more expensive.

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