Honda pulls plug on Civic CNG
The decision may seem surprising, especially when you consider how popular alternative fuels, particularly LPG and CNG, are becoming in the US. In an official statement released to explain the decision, Honda's executive vice president for the US market explained that the company wants to shift its focus from alternative fuels to more efficient use of conventional use. This means natural gas and hybrid will be replaced by turbocharging and direct petrol injection, which are said to boost economy enough to make the alternative variants pointless. Need specifics? No problem – new Civics are expected to be EPA-rated at 40 mpg (5,9 l/100 km), deeming CNG not worth their extra price.
Civic CNG and Civic Hybrid will survive until the end of the 2015 model year. In fact, production of the methane variant has already ceased at Honda's plant in Indiana, but the company will "continue to provide a high level of service to existing customers through CNG-certified Honda dealers,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co. Inc. Withdrawal of the Civic Natural Gas means the first CNG-powered passenger car ever to be offered in the US will no longer be, leaving Chevrolet's new Impala (introduced in 2015) as the only new car running on methane available today.
While improved fuel economy of the upcoming Civic may be the explanation behind killing off the CNG-powered version, it's not the reason. The reason is, not really surprisingly, low consumer demand and a lack of refueling infrastructure, as cited by Honda. After all, fleets of CNG-powered commercial vehicles use private refueling sites at their HQs, but individual drivers need to rely on publicly available retail points and, admittedly, there's currently very little to rely upon. Need specifics again? Since the first CNG Civic was introduced in 1998 (back then it was called Civic GX), Honda has managed to sell a mere 16 thousand examples of several generations of the car. While this is truly far from impressive (fewer than 1000 units per year), it was not until the current generation that the model has been certified for sales in all of the US. If it endured, sales could actually pick up steadily, but Honda execs decided otherwise. Hopefully they won't regret the move, but if they do, the car might be reintroduced, but don't keep your fingers crossed to tight.
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