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Honda sees record gasoline prices as opening for natural gas Civic

October 09, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Honda is offering about three years of fuel with the purchase of a 2012 natural gas-powered Civic.
Honda is offering about three years of fuel with the purchase of a 2012 natural… (Honda Motor Co. )

Record gasoline prices got you down? Honda thinks it has a deal for you.

Honda is offering a $3,000 debit card good at Clean Energy natural gas filling stations with the purchase of a 2012 model year Civic Natural Gas vehicle.

That is about three years' worth of fuel for most drivers at today’s natural gas prices.

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There are about 40 Clean Energy filling stations in Southern California and about 160 nationwide. Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. operate another dozen stations in the region, but the debit card isn’t good at those facilities.

In Southern California, natural gas retails for about $2.04 per gallon equivalent, or more than $2.50 less than a gallon of gasoline. It sells for even less, about $1 gallon, for people who install home filling equipment that taps into their residential gas line.

The car offers another benefit for California drivers. The natural gas-powered Civic qualifies for solo driver access in most carpool lanes.

Honda is the only carmaker to sell a factory-built natural gas-powered sedan in the U.S.

With more natural gas filling stations opening, the incentive of carpool lane access and the high cost of gasoline, Honda believes this is a good time to pitch its natural gas Civic.

“The signs are pointing toward increased market acceptance of this type of
alternative fuel vehicle,” said Angie Nucci, a Honda spokeswoman. “The $3,000 CNG fuel card could be a tipping point for more consumer consideration.”

But there are other reasons for the automaker to offer this type of deal. The 2013 model year for the Civic is fast approaching and Honda still has about 1,500 of the 2012 Civic Natural Gas vehicles available at dealers nationwide.  In other words, this is a new take on a tried-and-true sales tactic -- a big discount.

The natural gas version of the Civic also is expensive. It’s loaded with options and features that jack up the price compared with the regular Civic, which is more of a budget car. The natural gas version starts at about $27,000 including destination fees, about $5,650 more than the similarly equipped gasoline Civic.

The car also doesn’t have as wide a cruising range as a conventional gasoline vehicle. The Civic carries enough fuel to travel about 200 miles, depending on traffic conditions and how heavy the driver's foot is.

Sales of the current natural gas Civic have been better than previous years, in part because Honda is building more. The automaker has sold 1,576 units so far this year, an increase of about 22% over the previous model year for the same period.

Natural gas is a cleaner automotive fuel than gasoline. Burning it reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 90% to 97%, carbon dioxide emissions by 25%, nitrogen oxide emissions by 35% to 60%, compared with gasoline, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  Additionally, it produces fewer toxic and carcinogenic pollutants, and little to no particulate matter.

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