Honda: The new Insight hybrid becomes king of the hill

Sales of hybrid cars have slowed in the US along with traditional gas-fueled models. But the autos with next-generation engines carry special burdens. Hybrids are more expensive than their traditionally powered counterparts, and the falling cost of gas has turned many buyers away from autos which are marketed as getting better mileage.

In Japan, however, where fuel costs are still high, the Honda (HMC) Insight was the top-selling car during the month of April. That means it beat out the global market hybrid leader, the Toyota (TM) Prius. According to the AP, "Honda sold 10,481 Insight cars in April in Japan, according to data released Monday by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association."

What works in Japan may not work in the US. In many states, regular gasoline still sells for less than $2. The economy remains weak enough that financially burdened consumers are not likely to spend more for a new car than they have to, if they buy at all.

US car companies are pushing their own hybrids now and will introduce more models next year. They may want to ship them to Japan where gas is expensive. They won't be selling well in America, at least not any time soon.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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