Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at the company’s annual press conference in Japan on Wednesday that two thirds of all Hondas will be hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric, or fuel cell cars by 2030. That may strike some people as odd, coming from Honda. The company seems to have had a bit of schizophrenia about alternative fuel cars recently.
First it withdrew the Fit EV from the US market. Then it stopped selling its popular Accord plug-in hybrid. Its Civic Hybrid was a dismal failure. Today, its only unconventional offering is the CR-Z hybrid sports coupe, a car that looks like it is going 100 mph standing still but actually struggles to beat Hyundai Accents away from traffic lights.
No more, says Hachigo. He has reassigned Yoshiyuki Matsumoto, who was head of global automotive operations until this week, to oversee Honda’s research and development program. “Our appointment of a new head of the R&D center is intended to position R&D at the center of all product development, and make it responsible for the design and performance of each and every vehicle,” Hachigo said on Wednesday.
The new company focus will begin modestly enough with a battery powered version of its popular CUB motorcycle. That news will hardly cause a flutter of interest in America, but small motorcycles are a huge market in much of the world where people don’t drive Cadillac Escalades to work.
Starting in 2018, Honda will introduce a new plug-in hybrid sedan based on the same chassis that underpins the upcoming Clarity fuel cell car. The Clarity chassis is distinct from the platform used for the Accord. Much as Hyundai intends to build hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric models on the Ioniq platform, Honda plans to use the same chassis for the Clarity FCEV, a plug-in hybrid, and a future battery electric car.
“We will make a plug-in hybrid type available for our major models and increase the number of models sequentially,” Hachigo said. “We will strive to make two-thirds of our overall unit sales from plug-in hybrid/hybrid vehicles and zero-emissions vehicles such as FCVs and battery EVs by around 2030.”
Such vehicles only account for about 5% of Honda’s global sales today. 2030 is not that far away. Honda finally seems ready to shake off its ambivalence about alternative fuel vehicles and not a moment too soon.