Accord Hybrid gets a push

Honda offering $1,200 incentive to dealers on '05 gas/electric model

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November 08, 2005|By RICK POPELY

High gasoline prices don't necessarily translate into blockbuster sales for all gas/electric hybrid vehicles.

Honda is offering a $1,200 dealer incentive on the Accord Hybrid, making it the first gas/electric model to receive such financial support from the manufacturer.

Since Oct. 4, dealers have gotten the $1,200 from American Honda Motor Co. for each Accord Hybrid they sell. Other 2005 Accords carry dealer incentives of $700 to $1,200. The offers are scheduled to end Dec. 5. The dealers can pass any or all of that money along to the consumer.

Honda sold 2,336 Accord Hybrids in August and 2,352 in September, but sales fell to 1,266 in October. Honda expected to sell 20,000 for the year and had sold a shade more than 15,000 through October.

Spokesman Chuck Schifsky said that was because dealers were working to clear out 2005 models in preparation for the 2006s. The 2006 Accord Hybrid will go on sale about Dec. 1 with new front and rear styling changes, like those on gasoline-operated Accords.

"[The hybrid is] selling fine," he said. "I don't have an exact number of the supply at dealers, but it's very low at this point. What you're seeing are issues with a model-year change and getting vehicles to dealers."

But Mike Chung, an analyst with consumer automotive Web site Edmunds.com, believes the Accord Hybrid needs the $1,200 perk because it does not deliver the high mileage of hybrids such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Prius.

"The Accord isn't a true hybrid in the same sense as the Prius," Chung said. "The Prius uses its hybrid engine to increase fuel economy. On the Accord, the hybrid engine is there to give it an acceleration benefit."

The EPA rates the Prius at 55 mpg, the Civic Hybrid at 50 and the Accord Hybrid at 32 in combined city and highway driving.

The Accord Hybrid has 253 horsepower, nine more than gas-only Accord V6 models, which get 23 mpg. It went on sale last December and initially sold at full sticker price. But Chung says it has sold for less than the sticker price in recent months.

Edmunds' Web site says the average price of the 2005 Accord Hybrid is $29,053, nearly $1,100 less than suggested retail. In comparison, Edmunds says the Prius sells for nearly $2,000 more than the sticker price because of high demand.

Edmunds bases its information on transaction prices obtained from dealers.

Toyota spokesman Sam Butto said all of that automaker's hybrids are in short supply - without incentives.

"We're on a pretty good pace," he said. "There's no real need for incentives at this time."

Unlike cash rebates, the $1,200 dealer incentive on the Accord does not have to be passed on to consumers. Dealers can use the money to lower the selling price, throw in free extras such as car washes and oil changes, or pocket the money.

Rick Popely writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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