Honda reveals ’17 Accord Hybrid, plans Clarity series

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

American Honda Motor Co. Inc., aiming to significantly boost sales of electrified vehicles, is rolling out a refreshed 2017 Accord Hybrid and plans a series of alternative-powered Clarity midsize sedans.

Honda revealed its Accord Hybrid gasoline-electric midsize sedan, due out this spring, on Wednesday to automotive journalists in Detroit. It also announced plans to add to its Clarity lineup. The automaker will begin selling the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle this year and will introduce an electric version of the midsize car and a plug-in hybrid version next year.

Honda’s President and CEO Takahiro Hachigo recently announced an ambitious target that two-thirds of Honda’s global vehicle sales by 2030 would have electrified powertrains.

The Accord Hybrid is part of Honda’s plans to create a “volume sales pillar” for advanced technology or electrified vehicles, said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

“This is a long-term commitment and is tied into our long-term vision for realizing the true joy and freedom of mobility together with a sustainable society,” Mendel said.

Automakers are faced with the challenge of changing their vehicle fleets and improving powertrains to meet federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements. The federal rules require automakers’ average fuel economy reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell will launch later this year in California with a monthly lease price of less than $500. Its sales will be restricted due to limited hydrogen fueling infrastructure. The Clarity battery-electric vehicle will go on sale starting in California and possibly other markets; Honda is not revealing the vehicle’s electric range or pricing.

Each of the five-passenger Clarity vehicles will ride on the same platform and share similar styling. Mendel would not provide expected sales figures for the Clarity series.

“The Clarity series will occupy a unique position in the market, providing customers with a well-equipped, premium, midsize vehicle with a range of ultra-low-carbon powertrain options to suit their lifestyle needs,” Mendel said.

Honda says the Clarity plug-in hybrid is expected to be the biggest seller. It will be available in all 50 U.S. states by late 2017. The car will have more than 40 miles of electric range before a gasoline engine kicks on for continued driving.

Mendel said plug-in electric hybrids will play an “increasingly central role” in Honda’s strategy in the future and it is committed to offering a plug-in variant on major core models, though he did not provide specifics. He did not say whether Honda will have another Accord Plug-in.

Pricing on the Hybrid Accord was not announced, but Mendel said it should not vary much from the 2015 model that started around $29,000. Honda hopes to more than double sales of the vehicle — which reached a high of just less than14,000 in 2014 — through additional production capacity and better supply of components, Mendel said.

“In this era of sub-$2 (a gallon) gas, we know this is a challenging target,” Mendel said, adding the Accord has name success and is gaining traction among younger buyers.

The Accord Hybrid features a new two-motor hybrid powertrain and horsepower grows 8 percent to 212, which Honda says will make it the most powerful midsize hybrid sedan. Honda also expects it to have segment best fuel economy of 49 mpg city, 47 mpg highway and 48 mpg combined under more stringent fuel economy ratings required by the government for 2017 models.

The 2015 model had fuel economy estimated at 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. Fuel economy was questioned by Consumer Reports, which in 2014 said it averaged 40 mpg in combined city and highway driving, below the 2014 model’s Environmental Protection Agency’s combined 47 mpg rating.

Honda last year halted production of the Accord Hybrid as it moved production of the vehicle from the U.S. to Japan. The Accord Hybrid will compete with hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and the new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, which is debuting this spring.

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