Honda to release unique-looking hybrid for conspicuous greens

Honda plans to make its hybrid cars more visible by 2009 by redesigning their exterior to stand out from the rest of its models. One of the reasons Honda has been trailing hybrid-market leader Toyota by such a large margin, according to industry analysts, is the Toyota Prius’ unique shape that helps the public identify it as different from Toyota’s other offerings. And, consumers hope, the people inside the Prius also stand out as unique and eco-friendlier. “Owning a hybrid is all about saying ‘Look at what I’m doing for the world,'” says auto analyst John Wolkonowicz of Global Insight. “If you can’t say that, the whole purchase is a waste of time.” Honda says its redesigned 2009 hybrids will be five-seater cars sold for about $22,000 — about $1,000 less than a Prius. Honda VP John Mendel admits Toyota has marketed more successfully so far. “The Prius has become synonymous with hybrid; it’s the Kleenex of hybrids.” Presumably that’s a reference to the deep brand-product tie and not a comment on snotty Prius owners. Or maybe it is.