Will Honda's (NYSE:HMC) new Fit build on the old car's success?
The car was revealed this past week in Japan. It's a prototype of the all-new Honda Fit. The new Fit is due to be rolled out in Japan this fall, and it will be here in the U.S. by next summer.
Stylistically, it's ... well, let's say it's a departure from the outgoing model, which has won many fans with its endearing looks. In a way, the current Fit is a lot like Hondas of old: light, simple, well thought out.
The new Fit might not have the visual appeal of the old one. But at least in its hybrid incarnation, it has something else: record-breaking fuel economy.
The new Fit Hybrid is amazing, and not coming to the U.S.
Honda says the hybrid version of the new Fit will get 36.4 kilometers from each liter of gas in the standard fuel-economy test the Japanese government uses. That translates to about 84 miles per gallon -- good enough to make it Japan's most fuel-efficient car.
It's also a 30% improvement over the outgoing Fit Hybrid, which is a big seller in Japan -- but which was never offered here in the United States.
Honda says the new Fit Hybrid won't come here, either -- a strange decision, given that the Fit Hybrid's closest competitor is the Japan-market version of Toyota's Prius c, which has been offered in the U.S for a while now. But we will see the Fit's hybrid powertrain in two new variants: a small sedan and a subcompact crossover SUV based on the Fit.
The U.S. is expected to get the Fit with a new 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine as the only powertrain option in the Fit itself. The new U.S.-market Fit and its new variants will all be built in a new factory in Mexico that's set to open early next year.
So will it succeed?
Can the new Fit live up to the old car?
The outgoing Honda Fit might be the company's most beloved current model. Unlike Honda's bigger cars, which have grown in size and weight (and price) from the lightweight, efficient models that built Honda's reputation here in the U.S., the Fit is still small and light -- and very fuel-efficient.
Sales of the Fit have remained strong even as strong contenders such as Ford's (NYSE:F) Fiesta have gained ground. Through June, U.S. sales of Honda's subcompact were up 5.2%, a good gain for an outgoing model in a segment that has lagged a bit as consumers have started moving back toward larger cars and SUVs.
The appeal of the old car is obvious, especially if you talk to a Fit owner. But I'm not sure what to make of the new car. The look is definitely a departure from the current car's, and it appears to take visual cues from Honda's Insight hybrid, which has been a very slow seller.
When Honda redesigned its Civic a few years back, fans and critics were disappointed -- the car didn't seem to have what it needed to compete with hot new contenders such as Ford's Focus. Honda had to rush an updated version to market far ahead of schedule. That updated version has fared better, but it was an un-Honda-like misstep. Will this new Fit turn out to be another?
What do you think? Is the new car a winner, or is Honda losing its touch? Scroll down to leave a comment and let me know.
Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. Follow him on Twitter at @jrosevear. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.