The Japanese company has to make up its mind regarding electric vehicles.
Honda is such a low-profile company you have probably never heard its CEO was named Takahiro Hachigo. But it recently said this is the right time to bet on EVs. In an interview with Automotive News, Hachigo said something that apparently contradicts that: he thinks EVs will not become mainstream anytime soon.
Gallery: Honda e charging solutions
With some goodwill, we could interpret that what the CEO said does not conflict with what two Honda Europe executives declared recently. It could just be a matter of not letting the ship sail. But you could also guess the CEO and his executives have opposite points of view when it relates to electrification.
Tom Gardner, Honda Europe’s senior vice president, told The Sunday Times:
“The electric car market started 2015 at about 2 percent (in the UK). It’s now looking like 7 percent or 8 percent. It’s beginning to be significant. We’ve seen the curve be quite exponential, and we’re watching it not just in our automotive brand, but in areas like our motorcycle brand as well.”
Ian Howells, another Honda Europe’s senior vice president, also has a positive idea of BEVs, while he sees challenges ahead of FCEVs:
“There is an infrastructure being developed very rapidly for battery-electric cars, but there’s nothing really to talk of about hydrogen, so there’s a way to go yet.”
Honda’s CEO pointed to another direction when he said "there are issues with infrastructure and hardware" for EVs to have a "dramatic increase." He deems that as unlikely. Hachigo prefers to state Honda wants to cut CO2 emissions rather than just selling EVs.
It is obvious electric cars cut carbon emissions dramatically. Anyway, Honda’s CEO is probably concerned with all the investments the company currently has in producing combustion engines.
That is why mainstream manufacturers lag so much behind Tesla: they are committed to previous investments, as Hugo Spowers, founder of Riversimple, once told me.
“I think that the business model of the industry absolutely has to change, but I don’t believe it’s possible in any industry for mature industries to change business models. It’s much harder than changing technology. When you go through a technology disruption almost invariably the business model needs to change as well. Even the senior executives in the auto industry have a very limited mandate of what they can do. The company isn’t theirs.”
That is the same sort of speech Mazda has towards EVs, even if it more radical with Honda’s competitor. Mazda promised not to have a pure EV, even if it seems to be willing to offer one with minimal range due to the small battery pack.
What do you think Honda really believes? Does it just want to board the EV ship to make sure it can have a piece of what it now considers to be a tiny pie? Are executives that trust EVs having a hard time there? The company definitely has to make up its mind. Or at least to have a more uniform speech about them.