Honda’s new hybrid Accord takes aim at Toyota

Toyota has thus far dominated the market for gas-electric hybrid vehicles, with its so-hot-Cameron-Diaz-has-one Prius outselling Honda’s diminutive Civic Hybrid by an almost two-to-one margin in the U.S. this year (and let’s not even mention Honda’s Insight — you ever seen one?). Now Honda is fighting back by offering a hybrid version of one of America’s most popular cars, the Accord sedan — and by making the hybrid version more powerful than its conventional cousin. Set to reach showrooms in December, the new Accord will be the first hybrid with a six-cylinder engine, boasting a 0-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds. Honda sells almost 400,000 Accords annually, and while it won’t predict sales figures for the hybrid, “we think our strategy of making hybrids just another choice in a model line is the right one,” said Honda’s Robert Bienenfeld. Toyota isn’t shrinking from the fight, though; it plans to start building and selling the Prius in China, a booming car market in dire need of pollution control.