Insight in the News

7/18/2009 3:31:56 AM

Sage Marie
Honda Public Relations

In the PR business you have to take your lumps every once in a while. The occasional bad review is not only expected, it's pretty much inevitable. One notable example is the recent Consumer Reports review of the Insight, which essentially is the reason I felt compelled to write this post.

Keeping things in perspective, one bad review doesn't have to spoil the whole bunch. In fact, since the Insight launch, the media reaction and product reviews have been overwhelmingly positive - exceeding even our own expectations. According to a recent analysis by the company that does our media monitoring, since the Insight debuted at the Detroit auto show, there have been 1,124 positive stories, 207 neutral stories, and only 12 negative stories - a favorable mix for sure.

Additionally, Insight has won hybrid comparison tests in major automotive enthusiast publications, including Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and Automobile. It has done so based on fuel economy that consistently exceeds expectations, engaging driving dynamics that separate it from other hybrids, and the unique hybrid value proposition created by its low cost.

The Consumer Reports review - one of the few less-than-positive ones - was a biggie though. Unfortunately, the whole matter became more visible when they aggressively publicized the review with a press release containing a headline and a quote from their chief of auto testing that were apparently designed to be more sensational than the review. No doubt, they have a sharp PR staff that deserves credit for recognizing that there can be more news value in a negative review of an important and highly visible car than there is in a positive one.

I should be clear that we have a lot of respect for the publication. In fact, our research suggests that the demographics of CR readers very closely mirror those of Honda customers. A Honda customer is very likely to be a CR reader and vice versa, so more often than not this has played to our favor.

However in this case, I have to respectfully offer an alternative viewpoint. We designed the Insight to deliver sporty handling with a fun-to-drive hybrid character that would create an engaging experience for the driver. While they criticize Insight's handling dynamics, we contend that we hit our targets and that Insight's handling is one of its competitive advantages. In support of this, we can cite opinions from major, well-respected automotive publications that directly contradict those issued by Consumer Reports:

Car and Driver
"The Insight drives like a Honda, with tight suspension motions, a firm ride, well-connected steering, and a no-fat musculature. Interior sound levels are mild and well controlled, especially at freeway speeds."

Motor Trend
"Is Honda's new Insight Hybrid merely a 7/8th-size Prius that delivers 7/8ths the fuel economy? No, the Insight is, quite simply, more fun to drive."

"Honda worked hard to make the Insight the driver's choice. There is a hollow stiffness to the chassis, but the overall sensation is road feel, not harshness. Steering is light and precise, and the Insight changes direction happily without keeling over as the Prius is wont to do. Throttle and brake response are smoother too: Powertrain engineers focused on keeping the pedal feel and position consistent with the performance of the CVT and brake-regeneration system."

"Both the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal have a natural feel and feedback, with none of the weird surging and artificialness that we've seen in some hybrids. The powertrain itself provides linear, predictable power. The electric steering is a bit dead on-center, but then it tightens up nicely. Body control and ride quality are impressive, especially given the fact that the Insight rides on skinny, low-resistance tires to maximize fuel economy."

While Consumer Reports' opinion is highly visible, it's ultimately only the opinion of their editors, and it's in the minority. I'd like to propose that you take a test drive and judge for yourself.