Honda’s just announced plan to sell two all-electric SUVs in the U.S. starting with the 2024 year is just latest product of the partnership between the Japanese automaker and General Motors
In addition to the utes, Honda expects to sell hybrid gas-electric versions of its top-selling models, officials announced Thursday. Until recently, Honda’s been a laggard in the growing effort to bring EVs to market. However, the automaker began trying to catch up a few years ago with its initial pairing with GM to develop batteries.
Since then, the two automakers have become fast friends, announcing additional joint efforts, including investing heavily in GM’s autonomous electric subsidiary Cruise and other EV and AI-related efforts. However, the seeds for the recent announcement were sown almost exactly a year ago.
EV plans revealed last spring
In April, the two revealed Honda planned to use GM’s Ultium batteries to power two EVs coming for the 2024 model year. The companies saw it as a way to unlock economies of scale and drive down the price of the batteries for vehicles coming from each automaker.
At the time, GM showed off a variety of EVs it was working on, including the GMC Hummer SUT and the Cadillac Lyriq. However, Honda remained mum until this week, and even those details are scant.
Dave Gardner, Honda’s U.S. sales chief, told reporters one of the electric SUVs will be from the Honda brand, while the other will be an Acura. The platform used will be GM’s Ultium model with Honda providing unique bodies.
Honda’s decision to partner initially gave the automaker a glidepath toward EVs; however, with mandates in Europe accelerating and in the U.S. the Biden administration and California looking to follow suit to some extent, securing the partnership with GM proved to be sound maneuver.
Strengthening the pairing
The two companies expanded their deal last September, revealing a new memorandum of understanding that they’ll seek to pair up in even more areas hoping to reduce costs and accelerate vehicle and technology development.
Engineering, purchasing, services and other areas of the business would be open to partnership under the new deal, they said at the time, but noted the goal was to save money and improve products while maintaining each company’s individual identity.
At that time, the biggest advantage was clear: speed. In an industry that is becoming more technologically advance at a quicker rate than ever, combining the R&D efforts in advanced technology areas, including electrical architecture, advanced driver assist systems, infotainment, connectivity and vehicle-to-everything communication makes a big difference.
The move to work with a strong partner isn’t new to GM and Honda, it’s becoming the standard for automakers around the world. Ford and Volkswagen have an expansive agreement to work together in a variety of areas such as electric vehicle development, truck and commercial vans and autonomous vehicle technology.
Pressure from the inside
Honda’s top officials recognize the clock is ticking and the company is playing catchup. It recently traded out its CEO for an internal candidate, which was as much about tradition as it was accelerating its alternative energy efforts.
To meet ever-toughening emissions standards, Honda’s reducing emissions from its internal combustion vehicles, Gardner noted, according to the Associated Press. It offers the Insight hybrid as well as the Accord and CR-V, its top-selling vehicle. Look for it to add at least two new hybrid models in the short term, he noted.
Honda is focused on being carbon-neutral by 2050, but it hasn’t followed the lead of several other automaker — GM included — and issued an EV-only date. GM’s is 2035, for those who are interested. Instead of offering up deadlines, the company seems content to acknowledge it is playing hurry up.
“We’ve got to now focus all of our energies in this direction in order to meet timelines,” Gardner said.