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Sleuth: The Week of June 22

June 25, 2008|By Wheelbase Communications

Hyundai goes hybrid: In the me-too game that most automakers are playing these days, the Sleuth hears that Hyundai plans to launch a hybrid gas/electric version of the Elantra sedan in 2009 and eventually bring it to North America. The car, due to launch in 2009, will be the first of several cars in the pipeline from the Korean automaker. Hyundai isn’t unreasonably optimistic, hoping to sell 50,000 hybrids a year by 2011. So far, Hyundai’s real-life hybrid experience was limited to nearly 3,000 hybrid versions of its Getz and Accent sub-compacts produced since 2004 and sold to government fleets for testing.

Insight on the way back!: Honda’s Insight was the first gas/electric hybrid to hit the U.S. market in 1999, but the tiny hatchback ceased production in 2006 due to practicality issues. The Sleuth hears that there is a good possibility that Honda will revive the Insight nameplate for its all-new Toyota-Prius-rivaling model. In addition, Honda is expected to equip the new hybrid with the same 1.3-liter Integrated Motor Assist system found in the current-generation Honda Civic Hybrid. Although the new Insight will be loosely based on the Fit small car, it will measure in at three inches longer and one inch wider than the Fit. One Honda insider said the Insight’s fuel economy would be “insane,” with some Japanese sources predicting 71 mpg. Actual mileage will likely be lower when it hits our shores, but the Prius rival will likely achieve 50-55 mpg. And if those lofty fuel-economy numbers weren’t enough to cause an instant waiting list for the new vehicle, the next-generation Insight could undercut the Prius by thousands. The new Insight is expected to debut at the Paris Motor Show, but Honda could also wait until November’s Los Angeles, Calif., Auto Show. It should hit dealerships early next year.

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