Honda will buy fuel for natural gas Civic buyers

TORRANCE, Calif. -- Honda Motor Co. is giving fuel cards worth $3,000 to customers who buy natural gas-powered Honda Civics before the end of this year.

Honda began selling the natural gas Civic last fall, but sales have been slow. That's partly because the natural gas Civic costs about $10,000 more than the basic gasoline model, and partly because natural gas isn't as widely available as gasoline.

Honda has sold 1,576 natural gas Civics so far this year. That's less than 1 percent of all Civic sales.

But Honda hopes that will change with the fuel card promotion. The debit card would pay for around 1,500 gallons of compressed natural gas, or enough to travel 46,500 miles with the 31-mpg Civic. That's about three years' worth of driving for the average customer.

Honda, its dealers and the Clean Energy Fuel Corp., which operates natural gas fueling stations, are splitting the cost of the cards.

Honda spokesman Marcos Frommer said the company also thinks that natural gas vehicles will be more appealing as gasoline costs rise. At $2 a gallon, natural gas is currently about half the cost of gasoline.

"People are starting to reach that tipping point where they're considering alternative fuels," Frommer said.