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Standing Out
Jamais Cascio, 17 Jun 05

Among the differences between the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius -- both companies' main hybrid vehicles -- is the underlying design philosophy. The Prius has a unique look, one that immediately identifies the car and the driver; the HCH, conversely, looks effectively identical to the gasoline-only Civic (with a few small differences that only a few will note). Honda was explicit about its desire to make the HCH (and its more recent sibling, the Accord hybrid) be thought of as just another Honda.

Toyota recognized, however, that the symbolic and technological arguments for buying a hybrid outweigh the economic arguments, and that most folks who seek them out have little aversion to being identifiable as hybrid drivers. In that spirit, Honda has decided that its 2006 model year Civic Hybrids will have sufficiently distinctive styling that they will be immediately distinguishable from the gas-only Civics. The Honda spokesperson said that it won't be as radical a look as the Prius, but there will still be clear differences. A side benefit will be a small improvement in mileage.

The question this raises, at least for me, is whether the growing availability and ubiquity of hybrids will mean that Honda was right before -- and most hybrids will eventually look like other cars -- or that we're seeing a paradigm shift in auto design, and as more hybrids get on the road, we'll see more "unusual" styles.

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Comments

I was just talking about this same topic with someone today. Personally, I prefer the current Honda approach, but that's just me.

At this stage, the two aspects of the different look probably has more to do with a person wanting to stand out as a "good" person, and the aspect of bringing attention to hybrid technology only being secondary.

I also wonder what percentage of people actually don't care about the appearance and are simply buying the Prius because it has the best technology at this point and gets the most attention from the press.

I also just got back from San Francisco and it was a Hybrid Wonderland. What percentage of Priuses have been sold in California - specifically in the Bay Area? Anyone know?


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 17 Jun 05

I'm of the "want a hybrid to look futuristic" type, but thought I was in the minority.

FWIW, the most important thing for me is whether the new civic will have a fold-down rear seat. Currently the prius does, making it much more practical as a stuff-mover.


Posted by: odograph on 18 Jun 05

Joe,

Here's statistics I found on an MSMBC article that shows the # of hybrid vehicle registrations by state in 2004. California is definitely tops by a long shot, and it makes sense because of the state's population and the long commutes. But, why would Virgina be second?

The top 15 states were:

1. California, 25,021
2. Virginia, 5,613
3. Washington, 3,441
4. Florida, 3,272
5. Maryland, 3,238
6. New York, 3,123
7. Texas, 2,922
8. Illinois, 2,707
9. Massachusetts, 2,590
10. Pennsylvania, 2,308
11. Oregon, 2,282
12. New Jersey, 2,053
13. Ohio, 1,763
14. North Carolina, 1,715
15. Arizona, 1,672


Posted by: Erik Ehlert on 20 Jun 05

Hey - thanks for digging that up, Erik.

I think Virginia's #2 because I believe they passed a law allowing hybrids with one driver into the diamond lanes there.

Pretty amazing to see the numbers in California.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 20 Jun 05

This is a VERY good move by Honda, to create a uniquely identifiable vehicle that isnt quite as dorky as the insight.

Though I believe that if you make something that looks cool, meets a price point AND is green, it will reach a much broader target audiance.

Sometimes I wonder why Toyota, or Honda has not already created a sports car version of the hybrid, or at least something that fits the current trend of vehicle styling - see the new chrysler crossfire, saturn's sky, etc..

It seems though, that Lexus has their ducks in a row with the Lexus GS Hybrid. Dual exhaust, rear wheel drive etc.. this thing speaks to american consumers.

now, if only they could make something a little more economical for the average consumer


Posted by: Jon on 21 Jun 05



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