Honda admits to being an EV laggard
And CEO confesses catching up will be a slog
Japanese OEM Honda is “late to the EV game”, its CEO Toshihiro Mibe has admitted in an interview with the broadcast arm of news provider Bloomberg. And while the firm has ambitious plans to expand its EV product offering and to progress its solid-state battery ambitions, he admits that there is no short cut to making up lost ground.
“In the Chinese auto market EVs and new energy vehicles are the fast-growing segments,” says Mibe. “With us being late to the EV game and fierce price-cutting competition due to an already crowded market space, we are facing a challenging situation.”
The firm has plans for three new EV models next year and expanding its line-up to a total of 10 by 2027, although it does not specify how many of these will be pure BEVs as opposed to PHEVs or HEVs. “By offering a wider product line-up we hope to improve our EV business, although it will take some time to get there,” Mibe continues.
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And solid-state batteries — also a favourite topic of Toyota, a fellow Japanese OEM that has faced similar accusations of being asleep at the wheel on BEVs and which, like Honda, has been conspicuous in pushing BEVs at this week's Japan Mobility Show that are not mass market passenger cars — is another plank of Honda’s longer-term strategy to regain ground. A pilot assembly line for solid-state batteries will begin operations in 2024.
“Once the line is fully operational, maybe next fall, we will be able to verify the technology and the production capability,” says Mibe. “Over the next few years, we will prove the set-up and we hope to go into mass production in late 2020s.”
No affordable EV
But one plank of its EV strategy that will not being moving forward is a prospective lower-cost model to be developed in conjunction with US automaker GM, a project the two firms kicked off last year. “After studying this for a year, we decided this would be difficult as a business,” says Mibe. The affordable EV project is now cancelled, with GM and Honda searching for separate solutions.
“When we studied the business feasibility — for example marketability, or cost, or product attractiveness — we did not see great potential there,” Mibe concludes. But he stresses that his firm will continue to have “comprehensive discussions” with GM on other possible collaborations, such as its plans for a new autonomous ride-hailing vehicle for the Japanese market with GM and its autonomous driving subsidiary Cruise.