I unfortunately missed the delivery of Honda Fit EVs (for "electric vehicles) to the City of Torrance last week. I regret that because this was actually an important move for Honda. As I pointed out in conversation with the Wall Street Journal's car critic, Dan Neil, on "AirTalk" as the Detroit Auto Show was kicking off, Honda is going through something of an identity crisis. It was hit hard by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that roiled the global auto supply chain. But Honda has also struggled to retain customers and lost market share in the past year to Ford, Nissan, and Hyundai, as well as General Motors and Toyota.
That's the bad news. The Fit, on the other hand, is the good news. This compact hatchback has been a big hit for Honda. It might be the best small car made by humans on Planet Earth (although Ford and Chevy have some excellent small rides these days, as well — the competition is fierce).
With most carmakers rolling out EVs and plug-in hybrids, it makes sense for Honda to electrify what's arguably its best car (although not its most important — that would be the might Accord, which is expected to get redesign for later this year).
Putting it into the hands of the City of Torrance is also smart. It provides Honda with a chance to test the vehicle and its engineering under real-world demands. But it also means that, because Torrance will be running its Fits as fleet vehicles, as "demonstration" cars with centralized charging, Honda can control for some factors and get good data before introducing the Fit EV to regular buyers.
This is from Honda:
Over the past year, Honda and the city of Torrance have worked together to gather input from Torrance residents about potential recharging station locations and jointly participated in numerous public awareness events with a Fit EV test vehicle. Honda and the city will continue to further these initiatives while also studying local government fleet usage of an electrified vehicle. The city of Torrance will also receive a Honda plug-in hybrid for additional testing at a later date.