Potential U.S. customers must live in or near Santa Monica, Torrance or Irvine, California and pay $600 a month and use the FCX Clarity as a primary vehicle for three years.
Alan Ohnsman - Bloomberg News - May 22, 2008
Honda Motor Co., the first automaker to lease fuel-cell vehicles to U.S. consumers, plans to deliver at least 200 of the hydrogen-powered vehicles over the next three years.
The company will start building FCX Clarity sedans in Japan next month, with leases beginning in the Los Angeles area in July.
Some 50,000 people contacted the company through its Web site inquiring about the car since its November unveiling, and the first customers will be announced next month, the Tokyo-based automaker said.
Demand for fuel-cell, hybrid and battery-powered autos and fuels made from renewable sources is rising amid record-high oil prices, stricter pollution rules and efforts to curb carbon exhaust linked to global warming. The Clarity also reflects Honda's efforts to challenge the image Toyota Motor Corp. has created with the Prius hybrid as an environmental leader.
"Honda designed an attractive product, but we're talking about a vehicle priced like a Bentley," said K.G. Duleep, managing director of Arlington, Va.-based Energy & Environmental Analysis Inc. "The economics of fuel cells are way out of line. Batteries look like a better option because costs should come down more quickly."
But Honda also plans to raise sales of hybrid vehicles ninefold. The company aims to sell 500,000 gasoline-electric vehicles, compared with 55,400 units last year, President Takeo Fukui said at a press conference in Tokyo.
It plans to sell a new, affordable hybrid seating five in the United States, Japan and Europe starting in early 2009.
In addition to the new hybrid, Honda will introduce several other hybrids: a new version of the Civic, a new sporty model based on the CR-Z and a Fit subcompact. Honda expects to produce the Fit hybrid by 2015.
"Hybrids have drawn attention for their image, but time has come to go to the next step," Fukui said, stressing that Honda was serious about selling hybrids in numbers.
It has previously discontinued production of the Accord hybrid and gas-electric Insight, which sold poorly.
Fukui would not disclose the price of the new hybrid that Honda is describing as affordable. But he said the price difference between hybrids and comparable standard models should be kept within $1,900....[Read More]