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Honda's chief executive confirms launch date of sporty hybrid

The Honda CR-Z hybrid sports car will be launched next February, as the car maker accelerates its hybrid launch programme in a bid to reverse falling sales.

Honda's new chief executive, Takanobu Ito, who took office last month, made the announcement in his first public appearance today. The car will initially be launched in Japan; a UK on-sale date will be revealed later this year.

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The Honda CR-Z is the company's sportiest hybrid model yet, with Honda giving it more power and performance than the Insight in a bid to improve the image of hybrids.

However, it will share the larger family hatchback’s front-drive, transverse-engined platform and be powered by the same 1.3-litre, 100bhp petrol engine.

However, battery-driven assistance should boost its total to around 130bhp and close to 200lb ft of torque. It should hit 0-62mph in around 9.0sec while delivering average fuel economy of around 55mpg and CO2 emissions of close to 100g/km.

Ito also confirmed that a petrol-electric Fit/Jazz model will be on sale by the end of 2010, saying that consumers were now demanding better efficiency from their cars.

"I think everyone is going to go the way of hybrids," said Ito. "Bringing hybrids quickly to customers will be a major focus of our activities. I want Honda to be a speedy company."

He confirmed that Honda's hybrid plans will include accelerating the development of a new type of hybrid system with two electric motors, which can be mounted on medium to large-sized vehicles.

He said this system will replace plans to use clean diesel engines to improve mileage on bigger models, but declined to say when the new hybrid system would be ready.

He also revealed that virtually all of the engineers from Honda's former Formula One team are now working on hybrid development. Honda withdrew from F1 last December, selling it to the championship-leading Brawn GP team.

Honda is the only top-three Japanese car maker to have escaped a loss last year, and Ito has forecast a 95 per cent drop in operating profit to 10 billion yen (£67.3 million) for the financial year to March 2010.

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