Honda Trying to Lower Fuel Consumption of Fit, Civic for Canadian Rebate

13 June 2007

Toronto Star. Honda Canada is trying to squeeze lower fuel consumption out of its Fit and Civic models to be able to qualify for a C$1,000 rebate under the Canadian government’s ecoAuto program. The ecoAuto rebate program offers rebates from C$1,000 to C$2,000 to people who buy or enter a long-term lease (12 months or more) for a fuel-efficient vehicle. The government is also levying a tax on fuel-inefficient vehicles from C$1,000 to C$4,000 in its Green Levy program. The rebates apply to cars that get combined fuel economy of 6.5 L/100km (36 mpg US) or better and new light trucks getting 8.3 L/100km (28 mpg US) or better. The 1.8-liter Civic with a five-speed automatic gets 6.7 L/100km; the 1.8 liter with a five-speed automatic gets 6.8 L/100km. (The 2.0-liter Civic is well away from the threshold at 8.3 L/100km.) The Fit models are similarly on the edge, with combined fuel economy of 6.6 to 6.8 L/100km. Honda research and development staff in Japan are working to increase fuel efficiency on the Fit subcompact and Civic compact for the 2008 model year, executive vice-president Jim Miller said. The auto industry is furious with the ecoAuto program contained in the March federal budget because manufacturers say it is unfair to some models; forces consumers to choose between safety and the environment, and will have a negligible impact on emissions. Honda, one of the country’s greenest automakers, was so upset with the program it took the unusual step of offering$1,000 on the purchase or lease of a 2007 Fit or a 2006-07 Civic with manual transmission.

The program gives an advantage to the Toyota Yaris, which offers fuel consumption of 6.2 and 6.3 L/100km.

(A hat-tip to Bob!)

Nice ... now lets do the same sort of thing in the United States. Letting California do their own thing with Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions seems the right thing to do also.

An interesting thing here on whether a tax (break) should be gradual, or binary.

In general, I would favour gradual tax breaks, but here you can see a binary (all or nothing) limit having the desired effect and goading Honda into action.

I also wonder what proportion of the Fits are manual vs automatic.
[ In Ireland, most Fits (which we call Jazz) are 1.3 manuals which would pass! ]

If Toyota (or any other sub-compact) can meet 6.0L/100 Km, that should be used to apply the basic minimum $1000 rebate. Anything better, should get progressively more, (ex: another$1000 per 1.0L/100 Km fuel reduction), up to a $4000 maximum. Penalties should be applied similarly (starting at 8.0L/100 Km) but the other way. If more countries would join in, such programs could convince car manufacturers to do much better. mahonj: It's not quite a binary program. There are 3 rebate thresholds, with rebate amounts of$1000 (6.1 - 6.5 L/100 km), $1500 (5.6 - 6.0), and$2000 (5.5 and below).

So we see a manufacturer (Honda) responding to just missing a threshold by improving their vehicles.

What I'm interested to see is whether a manufacturer that already has a rebate-qualified vehicle will make an effort to get to the *next* threshold.

E.g. could we possibly see a Toyota Yaris with drivetrain options that permit it to meet the 6.0 L/100 km level? That would mean $1500 back, rather than the$1k level it currently enjoys.

We've seen the results of decades of "horsepower wars". If this type of program spurs a new kind of "efficiency war", I'm all for it.

Honda needs to stop whining about safety equipment tradeoffs. They didn't make that cut and that is it. There is only 70lbs difference between the fit and yaris anyway. So that is not the major difference. More likely it is engine efficency, and aerodynamics.

Note some Civics that are much heavier and have a bigger 1.8L engine still beat or match the Fit in highway mileage. That indicates the problem is not extra safety equipment as Honda keeps using as an excuse.

I used to have a lot of respect for Honda, they are losing it with this whining session.

A Prius (5.1 L/100 km)already would qualify for the largest C$2000 bonus, but a Civic hybrid would be a good candidate for incremental improvement of efficiency, as it is perched at 5.6 L/100 km, right at the cutoff between the C$1500 rebate, and the largest C\$2000 rebate.

Idle-stop for the Fit! Add the type of micro-hybrid improvements BMW is coming out with. I suppose this might take a couple of years to get to market, and of course the Fit doesn't have BMW's profit margins to squeeze the cost into. However, I bet they could pass the cost along to the customer in the current gasoline price environment.

Peter: agreed that Honda is gambling with its "green" public image by whining about this issue so much .

However I'm glad to see they're also taking action on top of their complaining. Can't say the same for GM, which has apparently said it will not attempt to improve its terribly - relatively speaking - inefficient Aveo/Wave subcompacts.

Nick: the quickest & simplest fix for the Fit would be a transmission improvement. A taller final drive, or longer top gear would easily bump it over the threshold.

A quick survey of any Fit forums will reveal more than a few owners & prospective owners who are frankly disappointed with just how far Honda erred on the side of "sporty" vs "efficient" when choosing the gearing for that car.

The fit is equipped with a 1.5L engine in the United State s and Canada, which lags behind the power and technology of Honda's new 1.3L engine it has introduced in Brazil and Europe. This engine delivers much better efficiency, but the cost/benefit ratio didnt work out for the American market.

Upon researching the Honda site, I note that the Civic sedan, which is almost 200 lbs heavier, gets equal (manual: 38 vs 38) or better (auto: 40 vs 38) mileage. This and 140 hp vs 109 for the Fit. Civic gets the more advanced iVTEC valvetrain. I wonder if Civic has better aerodynamics as well. It does seem Honda could easily get better mileage out of the Fit without much effort--perhaps just with a longer final drive, as suggested by djc.

Nick, thanks for those figures. though they beg the question: what exactly is the purpose of the Fit, if a Civic is roomier, more powerful, and gets better fuel economy?

lensovet--

Cost less? Easier to park? Fun to drive?

Based on their advertising, I'd say Honda is targeting a youth demographic with the Fit. Also, regardless of the EPA mileage numbers, Consumer Reports' real-world testing returns 32/34 mpg (auto/manual) overall for the Fit, 28/31 mpg overall for the Civic sedan.

I like the "shared" databases of real-world mileages, like the one at the EPA or at Green Hybrid.

I think Consumer Reports does rigorous tests, but trip-length must be low, in order to drag them down below "real" real world mpg for hybrids. Hybrids are sensitive to trip length.

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