When a Honda executive said last week that his company plans to roll out a "Prius Fighter" hybrid next spring, it marked the latest proclamation from an automaker that it had a model to beat the king of the hybrids.
And once again I'm curious if this challenge will truly be a challenge to Toyota Motor.
Yes, I know those of you who call me "Toyota Phil" think I will defend the Japanese automaker to the end of time. But in this case, I am not ready to easily dismiss Honda.
- Honda is, at its core, an engine company. It knows how to make a hybrid that can stand toe-to-toe with the Toyota hybrid engine.
- Honda learned from its failure with past hybrids. Remember a few years ago, when its hybrid lineup fizzled? The company won't make the same mistake of sticking a hybrid engine in an existing model and expecting that to sell.
- Honda can parlay its image as the automaker with a fuel efficient lineup of cars. Look at which automakers are doing the best handling the current fall-off in sales, and only one stands out: Honda.
This doesn't mean I'm writing off Toyota. Let's be honest: the Prius practically created the hybrid segment. And for many people it's still the gold standard. That built-in advantage will make it tough for Honda, or any other automaker, to steal the Prius' crown.
The hybrid wars are about to heat up; and for once, I think there could be a true fight.
Left behind in hybrid race?
- Ford Motor
- General Motors
- Chrysler (privately owned)
Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com