Honda’s fuel-sipping Fit will turn an even deeper shade of green with new plans to launch a gasoline-electric hybrid version of the popular subcompact in the early 2010s.

The hybrid Fit, announced here early today, will be the fourth hybrid from Honda Motor Co. by 2015, as the Japanese automaker chases rival Toyota Motor Corp. in the low-emission car race.

Honda already was planning to roll out an all new dedicated hybrid vehicle early next year, to challenged Toyota’s Prius, followed by a sporty hybrid and a redesigned Civic hybrid.

The greener Fit’s arrival dispels Honda’s earlier skepticism about the viability of mounting pricey hybrid systems on small, low-priced cars that already get great mileage.

President Takeo Fukui has changed his tune — in time with changing market realities.

"The Fit has great fuel efficiency to begin with, and if you put in a hybrid, it’s going to get even better," Fukui said while announcing the car at a mid-year news conference. "So with crude oil prices going up this much, I think a Fit hybrid is now starting to make sense."

The price difference between the hybrid Fit and regular Fit needs to be less than 200,000 yen ($2,000) in order for the hybrid to win customers, Fukui added.

The Fit should be released by 2015, Fukui said. That would put it on a timeline for the Fit’s next model makeover.

When all four hybrids hit the streets, Honda expects annual hybrid sales of 500,000 units. That includes 200,000 of the hybrid-only model debuting next year in Japan, North America and Europe.

Source: Automotive News

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