Honda's timing to bring the hybrid version of its popular CR-V compact crossover to North America was looking pretty good right up until a few weeks ago.
After receiving mostly positive reviews following its introduction in Europe last year, the Japanese brand's first electrified crossover was ready to do battle with the redesigned Ford Escape Hybrid that hit the market in December and the strong-selling Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, now in its second generation.
The expectation for crossover hybrid sales was evident in the decision by the three automakers to build their electrified versions in the United States. No longer niche products shipped from afar, hybrids looked to become a healthy subsegment of the already-crowded compact crossover group.
But alas, the CR-V Hybrid's arrival in showrooms in early March coincided with an oil-price war, a global pandemic and a world turned upside down. Gasoline is cheap, consumers are pulling back from the auto market in general, and environmental concerns are not currently top of mind.
It won't be forever, though, according to analysts.
When auto sales return to healthy levels, hybrid crossovers are poised to become mainstream vehicles because of the maturation of the technology. They were once rolling science experiments with little power and weird styling, but now hybrids represent a step up from their gasoline-only counterparts.
As an example, sales of the plug-in hybrid electric Toyota Prius Prime were up 202 per cent in February to 483 units and sales of the made-in-Canada RAV4 Hybrid were up 88 per cent to 669 units. Those two models alone helped boost Toyota Canada’s electrified vehicle sales to 1,958 units sold last month, up 41 per cent and setting a new February record.