In 2000 the Honda Insight made history when it became the first petrol electric hybrid car to be sold in Britain. And now three years on, astute car buyers are snapping up used examples as a means of escaping the imminent London Congestion Charge.
Honda sold more than 200 of the ground-breaking Insights, but expects sales of its new Civic IMA with the same ‘IMA Inside’ technology to top 1000 per year as people seek ways to beat the Congestion Charges.
Michelle Kay of Harrow, Middlesex, is a good example. She purchased her Insight in January this year and uses it to travel to and from her office in Harley Street. There, she is the Managing Director of Vitalizers Limited, the Consultancy and training company she founded which specialises in Stress Management and Optimum Life-Work Balance.
Unlike many, Michelle can hardly wait until 17 February, the day Congestion Charging starts. "Any reduction in traffic in central London will make my 20 mile journey much easier," she says. "And of course with the Insight being eligible for a 100% discount, the Congestion Charge will cost me nothing apart from a £10 annual registration fee. I estimate that the Insight will save me around £1200 per year compared with an ordinary car," she adds.
Michelle is keen to point out that dodging the Congestion Charge was not her sole reason for choosing the bright red Insight. "Both on a personal level, and through my work in stress management and healthy living, I am aware of the need to look after our environment. And right now, with its superior fuel consumption and very low exhaust emissions, the Insight is the ‘greenest’ car you can buy.
"But expressing your individuality and having fun is important too," she adds. "I like the fact that my car is environmentally friendly and economical to drive in town. Its cool and stylish designer looks turn heads too, which is great for the environment and for business!"
Michelle purchased her Honda Insight from the newly established Honda Brand Centre at Chiswick Honda. There, Sales Executive Stephen Cox is equally enthusiastic about the Insight, but from a different perspective.
"The introduction of the London Congestion charge has reawakened interest in the model," he says. "One year ago, while everyone admired it many were put off by the model’s relatively high list price and strict two-seater accommodation. But today, with used examples being offered for less than £12,000, and with the potential Congestion Charge savings available for many of our customers, there’s renewed interest in the model. Right now, we cannot get enough Insights – and the first delivery of Civic IMAs can’t come soon enough!" he says.Published 16 February 2003