The Acura NSX may have been low volume and high cost when it made its debut as the world's first aluminum production car in 1990, but it paved the way for the Honda Insight, which has generated both hype and demand.

The Japanese automaker sold 1,900 Insight electric-gasoline hybrids in the first six months and was shooting for 4,000 by the markets such as Michigan, Florida, California and the Northeast. Detroit dealers that got three or four requests before the gas price hike now are getting that many a day, Honda officials say.

Next year, the carmaker expands its hybrid technology to a version of the '01 Civic for Japan and then the U.S.

Honda credits NSX for valuable lessons learned, says Kazuhiko Tsunoda, Honda's chief engineer for Insight body design.

Key to Insight's fuel economy (70 mpg highway and 61 city) is its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) powerplant that offers help during acceleration and shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped. It also boasts a high air:fuel ratio (22:1) and a new NOx catalyst which reduces emissions to half of a typical car.

To overcome the challenge of keeping cost down, the Takanezawa plant makes NSX, Insight and Honda S2000.

Although most of the aluminum for NSX was sheet material, on Insight more than 40% of the aluminum is either extruded (used in framing) or die-cast into such things as engine mounts and lower arm joints.