General Motors and Honda are joining forces to develop two new electric vehicles, the companies announced Thursday. They will have Honda’s nameplates, but will be built using GM’s recently announced flexible EV platform with its Ultium-branded upgraded battery packs.
Honda will design the exteriors and interiors of the new electric vehicles, while the platform will be designed to meet Honda’s specifications, the companies say. They will be manufactured at GM’s North American plants, and sales are expected to begin in the 2024 model year.
This is surprising news, given the extreme conditions for the auto industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Honda and GM, along with virtually the entire auto industry, have temporarily closed their factories in the United States and abroad in accordance with public health guidelines. Sales have dropped dramatically as most customers stay home, and experts say the real pain is yet to come, and automakers are preparing for a protracted economic downturn.
COVID-19 cases were just beginning to appear in the US. USA In early March when GM hosted an “EV Day” at its design headquarters in Warren, Michigan, to present its broader electric vehicle strategy. The company also showcased approximately a dozen products, including the Cadillac “Lyriq” EV crossover and two electric versions of the GMC Hummer. (The release dates for all three, including the revamped Chevy Bolt, have been delayed due to the pandemic.)
Honda’s power line is limited. The automaker recently discontinued its Clarity EV, though it will continue to sell hydrogen and plug-in hybrid versions of the vehicle. His Honda E is expected to go on sale this summer in Europe.
GM and Honda have a pre-existing relationship when it comes to electric vehicles. The Japanese automaker is an investor in Cruise, GM’s wholly-owned subsidiary of autonomous vehicles ($ 2 billion over 12 years). As part of the deal, Cruise and Honda said they would jointly develop a specially designed electric autonomous vehicle. A pre-production version of that vehicle, the Cruise Origin, was first introduced late last year. Weeks later, GM said it would spend $ 2.2 billion to modernize its Detroit-Hamtramck plant for the production of autonomous and electric vehicles. The new Honda EVs are likely to be built at that renovated plant.
But GM and Honda are not the only automakers that are comfortable with each other. Ford and VW recently announced a significant link to electric and AV vehicle construction. In fact, large and small auto companies are competing to build on Tesla’s success in producing SUVs, trucks, and battery-powered sedans. At the same time, many of the same companies are also testing driverless cars, either as taxis to transport passengers through cities, or as delivery robots that transport food and other goods.
But electric vehicles still account for a small fraction of total vehicles sold worldwide, and many of the optimistic predictions about mass driverless cars hitting the road were unfulfilled.