NAIAS 2018: Honda to introduce all-new Insight, Jeep to reveal updated Cherokee

As the North American International Auto Show, to be held in January 2018 in Detroit, Michigan, United States, approaches, automakers are providing a glimpse into their show plans.

IHS Markit perspective

  • Implications: Honda is expanding its electrified and hybrid powertrain offerings with a third-generation Insight. This Insight takes a more traditional, conventional shape than the first two generations. Jeep is also introducing an updated Cherokee that promises a fresh take, more efficient powertrains and more technology.
  • Outlook: The Honda Insight is part of the automaker's effort to move electrified vehicles into the mainstream. However, IHS Markit data show hybrid powertrain vehicles accounted for only 2.6% of light-vehicle registrations in January-October 2017. Interest in hybrids is growing, it is growing more slowly than Honda's hybrid availability, and this Insight is likely to continue to be more niche than mainstream in the near term. The Jeep Cherokee update is largely a routine one, but market conditions may see the vehicle struggling to significantly improve its sales performance in the near term.

Honda has announced that it will reveal the third-generation Insight hybrid, in Prototype form, at the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in January 2018. The Insight is meant to slot between the Civic and the Accord, with initial teaser photographs released by the company suggesting that, this time around, the Insight will take a much more conventional sedan shape. The first two generations were more awkward hatchbacks, with the styling dictated, to a large degree, by aerodynamics. Honda has confirmed that US sales of the third-generation Insight hybrid will begin midway through 2018. Honda calls the newest Insight an "upscale, stylish five-passenger sedan positioned above the Civic in Honda's passenger car lineup". The Insight uses Honda's two-motor hybrid system, though Honda has not provided details on the engine or system application for the Insight at this point. Honda has also confirmed that the Insight will be produced at the company's Greensburg, Indiana, United States, plant; the facility also produces the Civic and CR-V. Adding the Insight gives Honda three alternative-powertrain sedans, in a US market largely drifting away from passenger cars. The Insight will be offered alongside the Accord hybrid and Clarity series, which include plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel-cell electric options.

Separately, Jeep has confirmed that it will introduce an updated Cherokee at the NAIAS. According to a brief company statement, the updated model "boasts a new, authentic and more premium design, along with even more fuel-efficient powertrain options". As well as confirmation of the introduction, Jeep shared teaser images. The exterior changes provide more refinement to the model, though the shape has not changed. Based on the initial images, the updates to the interior have more impact, with less chrome and a more mature, refined appearance than the 2018 Cherokee.

Outlook and implications

The Honda Insight is, according to Honda, part of its "electrification initiative" to move electrified vehicles mainstream. However, IHS Markit data show hybrid powertrain vehicles accounted for only 2.6% of light-vehicle registrations in January-October 2017. Interest in hybrids is growing, it is growing more slowly than Honda's hybrid availability, and this Insight is likely to continue to be more niche than mainstream in the near term. The Jeep Cherokee update is largely a routine one, a mid-cycle update to freshen up the vehicle and bring in more technology.

The Insight nameplate has evolved in three generations. The first, a two-door, had an aluminium structure and boasted 70 mpg. US sales, however, peaked at an extremely modest 4,276 units in 2001 for the first generation, according to IHS Markit sales data. The second Insight was a five-door designed with affordability in mind, and achieved sales of nearly 21,000 units in both 2009 and 2010. IHS Markit forecasts this third generation will see sales of around 20,000 units as well. Honda says this new iteration of the Insight is designed to appeal to mainstream buyers without compromise. Honda had indicated to expect a dedicated, two-mode hybrid during remarks when it introduced the 2018 Odyssey minivan at the 2017 NAIAS.

In the Accord, the two-mode hybrid system uses a 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine; however, the Accord hybrid has not been launched yet and is expected to arrive in early 2018. The two-motor hybrid system is also used for the 2018 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, leveraging a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle engine in that application. The system uses two motors, one used for propulsion and one as a generator/starter motor. The Insight will leverage this overall system, although, at the time of writing, details of the battery and the engine have not been confirmed.

The Cherokee update is forecast to be a mid-cycle refresh, and coincides with the model's production being moved from Toledo North to Belvidere, Indiana. That move enables Jeep to increase available capacity for the Wrangler (and its upcoming pick-up derivation) in Ohio, as well as make use of the Indiana plant. Belvidere had been building the Jeep Patriot/Compass twins as well as the Dodge Dart.

The Jeep Cherokee's sales have slipped in 2017, in part on the production changeover. In January-November 2017, the Cherokee's sales dropped 18% compared with the same period a year earlier. However, the Cherokee's production has shifted and appears to be back online - November 2017 sales of the Cherokee saw a 44% increase compared with November 2016, according to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' sales reports. The Cherokee update, against a declining market and increasingly crowded segment, is not forecast to drive increasing sales for the model over the next three years.

About this article

The above article is from AutoIntelligence Daily by IHS Markit. AutoIntelligence Daily provides same-day analysis of automotive news, events and trends.​​​​​​ Get a free trial.

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