Honda to Stop Making Prelude at Year's End

American Honda Motor Co. said it will pull the plug on its aging Honda Prelude coupe at the end of the year, replacing it in 2003 with a completely different vehicle.

The decision ends months of speculation about the fate of the fast but fading 200-horsepower car, once considered Honda's flagship model.

U.S. Honda dealers sold 10,000 Preludes last year and just 3,500 in the first five months of this year, company spokesman Art Garner said. The sporty two-door hit its peak in 1986 with 79,841 sales and has been slipping ever since, a victim of changing driver tastes and stiffer competition in the youth-oriented coupe market.

The Prelude was introduced in the U.S. in 1978 and was last redesigned in 1997. Because it is built in Japan and shipped here, production and delivery costs are higher, and the $23,600 to $26,100 price range makes it more expensive than most competitors.

Separately, Honda executives in Torrance reiterated plans to begin selling a hybrid gasoline-electric motor version of the Civic sedan next year and said they are considering a Honda version of the MDX sport-utility successfully launched this year by Acura, Honda's luxury division.

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