According to this piece in TheAutoChannel by one Edwin Black, Honda is pulling an Evil GM (see: EV1) and intentionally limiting the number of Civic GX (compressed natural gas) vehicles it produces and sells.
For all the sinister insinuations, Black doesn't really have an explanation for why it would be that Honda might be producing Civic GXs in limited quantities. That's because Honda clammed up and won't talk to the press about it, which is not surprising. All he can come up with is that Honda is pushing its much thirster Pilot SUV. As if a mid-sized SUV would somehow be hurt by sales of a compact sedan?
There are a number of plausible explanations for why Honda, which is certainly interested in polishing its already good environmental credentials, would be cautious with the Civic GX. Here are a few that are obvious to me:
Quality. Honda is obsessive about quality, and they may want to roll their CNG Civic out slowly until they fully understand how it can fail in the harsh environment of real American drivers.
Cost. Honda may not be making money on these, in fact they could easily be losing money on them, perhaps due to supplier issues. Honda may be treating the program as more of a marketing and product research exercise (like the original Insight?) until they understand the market for CNG better.
Dealerships. Since the CNG Civic has a specialized fuel system, different engine software, and perhaps other changes, special tools and training are required to service it. Since Honda doesn't (can't by law) own dealerships, dealers may have to put up significant capital to get CNG certified. Or perhaps Honda foots the bill, in which case Honda pays significant money for each dealer.
Honda isn't going to spread CNG dealers around the country, if there aren't enough fuelling stations, or customers for that matter, for it to make sense. They will pick a few entry markets, like California and New York, and go there.
And since Honda is obligated to service their CNG Civic, they obviously aren't going to want to sell them in places where they don't have a dealer certified for it yet.
The market is shifting rapidly this way and that. At first, pundits thought diesel was the new way--then the price of diesel shot up so that there was not much of an advantage over gasoline. The ethanol pendulum is swinging one way now, but could swing back the other way again if a backlash builds up. Oil is starting to look cheap again.
Honda isn't being sinister, they're eing cautious in an unpredictible and dangerous economy.