Honda may be America’s most committed EV automaker, for the moment

The All-New, All-Electric Honda Prologue is on display at the 2023 Los Angeles Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center on November 24, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. While missing a host of brands, this year’s edition of the Los Angeles Auto Show debuted a range of new models. 

Josh Lefkowitz | Getty Images News | Getty Images

As the auto industry attempts to time its years-long, sprawling shift away from combustible engines to electric vehicles, some legacy car makers are playing up hybrids as a waystation along what is now more likely to be framed as a decades-long path. But at least one automaker says it is ramping up its North American EV strategy in 2024: Honda Motor Company.

This spring, there has been a flurry of announcements from the Japanese company, including an $11 billion investment in a Canadian EV hub — the company calls it a “comprehensive EV value chain” — and an EV transformation of Ohio operations.

Honda’s EV moves come against the backdrop of EV pullbacks from other major auto manufacturers; and in some cases, shelved EV plans altogether. GM said it no longer will provide EV production targets so it can build to market demand, while Ford said it would delay about $12 billion in EV investments.

“Each manufacturer has their reasons for their direction,” said Bob Nelson, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co.

Even as Honda commits more to EVs, its investment approach implies a hedging of bets. Nelson says a $700 million investment in creating the EV operations in Ohio gives the company latitude to tailor production to market conditions.

“The $700 million investment gives us the flexibility to produce ICE [internal combustion engine] and BEV [battery electric vehicle] on the same line. We think that is a smart strategy as the market continues to grow,” Nelson said.

It’s also being designed to build expertise, efficiencies and knowledge that can be shared across all of Honda’s North American operations, including engineering and purchasing, and potentially around the world. “Having all of those functions and experience here gives us the ability to develop the capabilities, standards, and profits for EVs, which we will use throughout the world as we expand our EV footprint,” Nelson said.

He added that Honda is on track to achieve its goal of having 80% of its vehicle lineup be EVs by 2035 and 100% by 2040.

Critics say Honda already late to EV transition

Some industry analysts say that Honda’s more aggressive short-term EV plan is simply a reflection of its need to play catch-up.

“They are catching up and getting into the game for sure,” said Cliff Banks, founder of the Banks Report, which analyzes automotive trends.

Other automakers, meanwhile, are pulling back because of limited customer engagement and cost.

“Auto manufacturers have seen that the costs are really expensive in trying to bring viable EVs to the market,” Banks said. “Basically, what they are doing is rebuilding the airplane while still flying…

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