By on July 28, 2021

Honda

Last month, we wrote up the news that Honda will be working on a battery-electric vehicle called the Prologue — not to be mixed up with the Prelude — and the company would work with General Motors, using GM’s Ultium battery packs.

Why would Honda, known especially for engine development, pair with GM?

To refresh your memory, the Prologue is a battery-electric vehicle set for launch in 2024, one of two that will be using GM’s Ultium battery pack and “skateboard-style” platform. The other BEV will be an Acura.

Honda says that partnering with GM will help it shift to EVs sooner than it could on its own.

“Leveraging strategic partners to achieve scale and mitigate initial investment requirements” would help Honda get an EV to market sooner than if it did it on its own, Dave Gardner, American Honda’s executive vice president of national operations, said during a media background briefing earlier this year. “Our zero-emission focus has begun.”

That’s not too far off what Chris Martin, a PR spokesperson for Honda, told us.

“Honda and General Motors have a long history of cooperative agreements including powertrain sharing, fuel cell joint ventures and common investment in Cruise, the automated vehicle startup,” Martin said. “Thus, as we evaluated potential strategic relationships for North America, those past and existing relationships along with our evaluation of Ultium technology led us to agree to co-develop these two BEVs for the North American market. This partnership will help unlock economies of scale for both companies and accelerate Honda’s electrification roadmap in North America with our first volume BEVs.”

Translation: Ultium will help Honda get the two vehicles to market sooner and at a lower development cost.

Still, I had to ask why Honda would partner with anyone at all, given its past successes in developing powertrains — and its past efforts when it comes to electrification (Insight, Clarity). Partnering has its advantages, sure, but Honda’s past would suggest it doesn’t need to pair up.

“You may recall in April 2021, our global CEO, [Toshihiro] Mibe-san announced key targets for sales of electrified vehicles in North America, with a plan to make battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles to represent 100 percent of its vehicle sales by 2040, progressing from sales of 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2035,” Martin said. “In addition to reiterating the co-development of two vehicles with GM, Honda also announced plans to launch a series of new EV models based on a new e:Architecture, with development led by Honda, beginning from the second half of the decade. So, you will see Honda-developed electric vehicles as part of our lineup in the latter half of this decade.”

Cutting through the PR speak once again: “We’re partnering now in order to get a couple of BEVs to market quickly and at a low cost, but we also have plans to develop models without pairing up. It will just take longer for them to reach market.”

Honda is targeting 100 percent EV sales by 2040.

I also asked if Honda had other plans for pairing up with GM or other automakers, and got a version of the “we don’t talk about future products” that every journalist covering this industry is familiar with. In this case, Martin said Honda was open to partnerships but would not speculate further about possible pairings.

So that’s the story, straight from the automaker’s mouth, so to speak — it’s not that Honda believes itself incapable of building an EV in-house, but it can save some money and time by working with GM. It also allows Honda to move cautiously when it comes to EV development — if the market continues to be slow to adopt BEVs, Honda won’t be on the hook for the entire cost burden.

We wouldn’t be shocked to see more of these partnerships come about as some automakers find it better to partner with those who are a bit further ahead on EV development than to be completely on the hook for the full development costs of cars that the market may initially shun.

[Image: Honda]

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28 Comments on “Why Did Honda Pair With GM on EVs?...”


  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    One acronym: FOMO. Fear of missing out.

    It is similar to a Prom dance. You have waited too long and find yourself without a partner, while all your friends are all paired up.
    So you ask a girl you don’t really like and find boring. And she accepts for the exact same reason.

    Both of you don’t have any expectations about each other, definitely you won’t get laid, but at least you won’t be alone.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I was going to say “good analogy” on the first comment, then it got nuked. Oof.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Except it is an arranged marriage and tying the knot is local governments saying no more ICE sales.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        im 100% confident there will be gas powered vehicles for sale, and ill still be riding my zuma125 and TMax until i dont want to any more

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          You can drive your TMax, as long as you pay for both it, and some dunce’s GM/Honda silliness.

          ICE vehicles aren’t going anywhere, until Peak Oil and the word calling America’s bluff, are both sufficiently far back in the rear view mirror that feeding it becomes unaffordable. By which time you’ll get a BEV, too.

          Just one with <1 HP and two wheels. As that's where BEVs are at their best and most efficient.

          If you want to see the real BEV revolution, look at the number of Birds casually thrown by the roadside in every major city, without a care in the world. That's what efficiency, hence abundance, hence real wealth, looks like. Dragging around a $50K ton of road destroying rare earths and other exotica, just to transport one person at barely above Bird speed back and forth to work, OTOH, is just another artifact of a fully financialized dystopia in The Age of Incompetence.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Who manufactures the cells for the Ultium packs? I’m just wondering about another Bolt scenario.

  • avatar
    dothetime

    As someone who worked for GM and who has owned Honda automobiles, this is a case of Honda shooting themselves in the foot.
    They need to do their own “Honda ” engineering if they ever expect to be successful in the electric car business.
    Buy a Honda engineered by GM?
    NEVER!

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      thinking Honda knows ICE vehicles will be around for a very long time

      remember, the pass a law and it will happen people are usually wrong

      the bureaucrats in Europe pushed everyone into diesels and then did a 180

      in the US think ethanol, high speed rail, public transportation, not green energy and now EVs

  • avatar
    smicallef427

    GM / LG joint venture

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    This is just like that one time when you could buy some Saturn SUV with a Honda six under the hood.

  • avatar
    probert

    “Honda is targeting 100 percent EV sales by 2040.” They may run into legal issues well before that in most countries. Maybe revise that date. Maybe stop being idiots.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Honda has a history of missing growing segments and using a partner to fill the gap in their line up until they can bring their own vehicle to market.

    See the first Honda minivan and SUVs for the US.

    So no big surprise that they have decided to team up with another automaker to dip their toe in the electric waters and see how their customers respond.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      I remember the first Honda Passport was an Isuzu, but wasn’t the first Odyssey an enlarged Accord? The deal was that Honda got a couple of Isuzus for them and Acura, and Isuzu got a minivan that I’ve maybe seen 3 of ever.

      But I think Honda is doing the smartest thing here – they might not get the best vehicle out of the gate, like the first Odyssey, but once they get a little more time, it could be something special.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        the Japanese gov forced Honda to take on Isuzu product – Isuzu was floundering

        most minivan makers based their vans on passenger cars – Chrysler did it most famously using the K car

        of course GM and Ford never made a competitive minivan

      • 0 avatar
        Varezhka

        Yeah, I remember those.

        Isuzu Rodeo as Honda Passport and Isuzu Trooper as Acura SLX. They even had Isuzu Amigo as Honda Jazz and Land Rover Discovery as Honda Crossroad in the Japanese home market. And yes, the minivan was all Honda, just OEM’ed to Isuzu as Oasis. I think I’ve seen two in my life.

        Lots of interesting partnerships back then, especially on the BL side.

  • avatar
    psychoboy

    So…..this is the Passport all over again? Honda has no SUVs in the pipeline, so it partners with GM-adjacent Isuzu to get a Rodeo it can put some badges on until it can figure out how to put a Civic wagon on stilts or butch up an AWD Odyssey?

    Be it the Isuzu partnership or the Saturn partnership, has Honda ever benefitted long term from one of these deals?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      There is the theory that by having the rebadged Isuzus they prevented customers from defecting to other brands, possibly for good. Hard to tell how many customers they retained either in the short or long term with those vehicles though.

      Concerning the power train supply deal Honda almost certainly benefited in the short term as I doubt they sold those engines at a loss. Long term I doubt there was any help beyond having more profits now to invest in new product later. I don’t know if there was an expectation of a longer term supply agreement that of course would have had longer term benefits.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Outside of Corvettes, Suburbans, and Silverados I consider most GM offerings the vehicle equivalant of a large dessicated dog feces laying in the loading dock lane that has been ran over by semi-trailers for several weeks. Then GM came out with the Volt. Yes, the company that offered Wide-Trac, SS/RS, GS, GX, BR549 came up with their own moonshot. I dunno and I’m too lazy to find out how much government lucre took to make the Volt. Then there’s the TTAC anti-EV; EV? why they’re communist! The Dimmycrats will be driving them to confiscate your bibles and your guns! The Volt was a moonshot for GM and you have to respect the engineering behind it. THE ENGINEERING, showing GM still has some TRUE BELEIVERS! Now that hatchback could hold many, many vaccines.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Honda isn’t fully committed, and they don’t want to be. This partnership offers plausible deniability to both parties when it fails to deliver.

    In this Olympic season, imagine an athlete declaring that they’ll give it a try, and see how it goes. That’s not a winning approach.

    Tesla’s lead in EVs is due to *not* being tentative.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Tesla’s lead in EVs is due to”

      Dark pools.

      https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/050614/introduction-dark-pools.asp

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Here’s the announcement on CATLs new sodium-ion cells, which are in production now. They solve many of the issues with lithium ion. You can also produce them with existing lithium-ion processes. The current energy density is 160Wh/kg, which is better than the original Leaf’s battery. For modern EVs, the next generation’s 200+ Wh/kg density is needed. I think the ultimate battery tech will be a sodium-ion solid state which seems doable.

      https://www.benzinga.com/news/21/07/22221345/tesla-battery-supplier-catl-unveils-first-gen-sodium-ion-batteries-what-you-should-know

  • avatar
    probert

    Got to wonder how many levels of subcontracting is economically viable. This, like all legacy (or the vast majority) of Evs, is a loss leader, that I suspect will lead the losses. As long as you can pump out enough ICE, you can wallpaper the results of incompetence. And certainly the credulous will give you the benefit of the doubt, cuz lectric sucks and Musk liar, But not forever.

  • avatar
    3SpeedAutomatic

    EV development is very expensive!!
    Better to pad your bets taping a competitor’s technology than putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Contour/mystique: if you can get 4banger zetec w manual trans great car. Reliable, good handling n great simple interior layout.

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