The new petrol/electric hybrid Honda Civic IMA will be the breakthrough model in the fleet industry for alternatively-powered cars, according to industry experts CAP Monitor.
CAP believes the car will be the first hybrid that combines 'low running costs with motoring practicality and useability', and will record higher residual values than its petrol Civic counterpart.
Jeff Knight, CAP Monitor editor, said: 'The Civic IMA finally establishes a real market for petrol/electric technology, overcoming the problems of its predecessors in terms of load space and practicality. It means that, at last, there is a real and credible petrol/ electric offering that will not phase the user-chooser with perceived quirkiness, performance or useability issues.'
Such opinion will serve as a boost to Honda, which told Fleet NewsNet earlier in the year before the IMA was launched that it had done as much as possible to make the hybrid a 'normal' car for fleets to run.
Part of the strategy includes giving the vehicle a high SE specification, including leather trim, specifically to help ensure its residual value remains high.
Knight added: 'It also helps pave the way for Toyota's new Prius, due into the upper-medium sector in November.'
Already seen by CAP Monitor and Fleet NewsNet (May 8 2003), the forthcoming Prius is a similarly ground-breaking car, the arrival of which will establish real choice across the two core fleets sectors.
'The achievement of Honda – and soon Toyota – will be to have successfully progressed from dipping their toes into a new technology to establishing a genuine confidence and appetite in the fleet market for petrol-electric hybrid vehicles.'
According to estimates from CAP, the Civic IMA 1.3 VTEC SE Executive will be worth £4,725 after three years and 60,000 miles, compared to its nearest petrol equivalent, the 1.6 VTEC SE Executive hatchback, which is worth £4,625 after the same period.
Knight added: 'Although other manufacturers are naturally keeping tight wraps on their own plans for this new breed of clean car, we expect to see more cars offered into the fleet sector from other car makers before very long.
'Hydrogen fuel cell technology – seen by many as promising the ultimate in low emission engines – is still some way off as a practical alternative to petrol and diesel. This means there is plenty of opportunity for fleets to take advantage of vehicles like the IMA before they are overtaken by newer alternatives.'