Under Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe’s radical vision, will company be recognizable in 20 years?

Mibe said the grand plan is still taking shape. But Honda may announce fresh details, such as product and battery strategies for North America, in early 2022, he said.

In China, Honda has already provided a glimpse. In October, Mibe announced that Honda will introduce 10 EV models in China in the next five years under a new “e:N Series” brand. Honda even envisions exporting these models from China. To underscore its intentions, Honda showed three EV concept vehicles with angular styling, slablike sheet metal and sharp boatlike prows.

How much will the global EV overhaul cost?

“All I can say is billions and billions,” Mibe said.

Honda’s ramp-up will take off in the late 2020s, following the arrival of solid-state batteries. That technology will be a “game-changer,” he said.

In a sense, Honda is refraining from big investments in today’s lithium ion battery technology on the bet that the solid-state breakthrough is right around the corner.

Honda plans to build a pilot line for solid-state batteries in 2022 as a step toward mass production, Mibe said. In the meantime, Honda’s partnership with GM can be seen as a bridge to that era, helping Honda fill the gap with EVs until its own next-gen tech is ready.

“If we make too huge an investment, we feel the production facilities can’t be readily commonized between lithium ion and solid-state batteries,” Mibe said. “So we need to think long term and think about what timing is best for this investment of billions and billions.”

But one thing Honda likely won’t detail anytime soon is a long-term vehicle sales target.

Honda sold 4.55 million vehicles worldwide in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2021, and expects deliveries to drop to 4.2 million in the current fiscal year as the global semiconductor shortage affects output. The automaker wants 40 percent of its sales in major markets, such as North America, to be either full-electric or fuel cell vehicles in 2030, and the world fleet to be zero emissions in 2040.

But Mibe says value will hinge on new mobility models and software, not necessarily volume.

“In general, the absolute number of vehicles may decline because of sharing. I don’t think we can maintain the absolute number of vehicles out there,” Mibe said of the industry’s direction.

“We definitely have to change the current automobile business model itself,” he said. “That is why we are not publishing a numerical target. The profitability structure will change as well.”

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