Honda says Accord hybrid has MPG lead

LOS ANGELES — Honda Motor Co., the first carmaker to sell hybrids in the United States, said Friday its gasoline-electric Accord will be the most fuel-efficient U.S. sedan when it goes on sale, topping competing Toyota and Ford models.

The 2014 Accord Hybrid gets 50 miles (80 kilometers) per gallon of gasoline in the city, 45 mpg on the highway and 47 mpg combined, based on U.S. government testing, Honda said. While Ford’s Fusion hybrid is also rated 47 mpg combined, Ford faces lawsuits claiming the car’s mileage is overstated. Toyota’s hybrid Camry averages a combined 41 mpg.

“Even before it hits showrooms this fall, the Accord Hybrid is already surpassing the competition and claiming segment leadership,” Mike Accavitti, Honda’s senior vice president of U.S. auto operations, said in a statement, without naming specific companies.

The range of U.S. hybrid and plug-in vehicles is expanding as automakers face pressure to meet increasingly strict fuel- economy rules. While Honda beat Toyota to the United States by introducing the tiny Insight hybrid in 1999 – half a year before Toyota’s Prius – its gasoline-electric vehicle sales are overshadowed by those of Toyota and Ford.

Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, dominates the hybrid segment with 248,134 vehicle sales this year, followed by Ford’s 61,306. Honda trails with 12,770 deliveries through August.

“Honda from day one hasn’t been able to do much in this space,” said George Magliano, senior economist at IHS Automotive in New York. “If they get some bragging rights with the hybrid, I don’t know how much that means. What matters is Accord versus the Camry, not the Accord Hybrid versus the Camry Hybrid.”

The Accord is the second-best-selling mid-size sedan in the U.S. this year, with 256,926 deliveries, behind Camry’s 287,119. The pattern has changed little for more than a decade.

U.S. sales of electric-drive cars and light trucks – ranging from hybrids to plug-in hybrids and battery-only cars – have gained 28 percent this year through August to at least 399,070, based on Bloomberg and Autodata Corp. figures.

The Accord Hybrid’s label rating puts it close to the Prius, a midsize model that averages 51 mpg in the city, 48 mpg on the highway and 50 mpg combined, the best of any non- rechargeable vehicle in the U.S.

Ford offered software upgrades in July for its Fusion, C- Max and Lincoln MKZ hybrids intended to improve fuel economy after customers, Consumer Reports magazine and other reports said the cars fell short of promised mileage.

Last month, the Dearborn, Mich.-based company lowered the mileage rating of its hybrid C-Max compact wagon to 43 mpg from 47 mpg.

Honda didn’t provide pricing or a precise on-sale date for the Accord Hybrid. A plug-in Accord, priced at about $40,000, went on sale in January. It travels about 13 miles on lithium- ion battery power before operating as a conventional hybrid.

Production of Accord Hybrids began Friday at Honda’s main North American plant in Marysville, Ohio. The Tokyo-based company said it invested $19 million to enlarge the factory.

Honda’s North American operations are based in Marysville. The company’s American depositary receipts rose 0.7 percent to $38.02 at the close in New York. They gained 2.9 percent this year, compared with a 12 percent advance in the benchmark NYSE Composite Index.

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