In his first public appearance since taking over as the new CEO of Honda Motor Company, Takanobu Ito said that the automaker will expand its portfolio of hybrid models in 2010 by adding the sporty CR-Z coupe as well as a hybrid version of the existing Fit. While sales of the CR-Z will begin in Japan next February, rollout details for other world markets was not revealed. However, representatives of American Honda Motor did tell KBB.com that the CR-Z will arrive in the U.S. at some point next year. The Fit Hybrid won't hit Honda domestic showrooms until late in 2010, but no decision has been made as to when -- or even if -- we might see it here. Ito further advised that Honda is now working on a new and more powerful version of its original Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) concept. Aimed at medium and large-car applications, the new system will feature two electric motors working on concert with a gasoline engine. In a somewhat ironic implementation of the adage "racing improves the breed," Ito also noted that virtually all of the people who had been involved with Honda's former F1 operations are now working on its hybrid development programs.
While few technical details were revealed at this announcement, we can safely expect the production CR-Z will look much like the CR-Z Concept (shown here) and that it will be fitted with a modified version of the Honda IMA package currently used in the Insight and Civic Hybrid. There, it matches a 1.3-liter/98-horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 10-kilowatt/13-horse motor/generator unit linked to a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery. No word as to how much more power it might pack when nestled beneath the hood of this two-seat front-driver or just how much additional "sport" Honda plans to dial into its suspension tuning. As in the case with Honda's current Civic Hybrid and Insight, the new CR-Z and Fit Hybrid will be manufactured at its Suzuka facility.