For the Canadian market, Honda’s global transition to producing only zero-emissions vehicles by 2040 begins with a step backward before taking two leaps forward with the 2023 CR-V Hybrid and the 2024 Prologue, a full-electric crossover.
The CR-V Hybrid arrives in late 2022 and takes the place of the Clarity plug-in hybrid, which will be cancelled this year. The future of the Insight hybrid is also uncertain.
The company’s focus going forward is on profitability, to maximize its investment in research for its shift to zero emissions, Honda Canada CEO Jean Marc Leclerc said in a recent interview.
Clarity “was not a profitable vehicle for us,” he said, noting that the decision to cancel the car was global. “I’d call it a reset of our electrification strategy.”
The delayed Canadian launch of the CR-V Hybrid, which has been on sale in the United States since last year, was also a consequence of that push for profitability. “For us, we made the difficult decision at the time that we were going to forgo the CR-V Hybrid for that reason. Just to make sure that we were able to meet the company’s commitment to profitability, Leclerc said.
“As you can well imagine, for the very ambitious plans we have, it requires a tremendous amount of resources.”
Honda’s global CEO, Toshihiro Mibe, announced last week the company would stop producing vehicles with internal combustion engines in phases, with zero-emission vehicles comprising 40 per cent of sales by 2030, 80 per cent by 2035 and 100 per cent by 2040.
Those ambitious plans include making Honda self-sufficient on the supply of components for electric vehicles, including the development of solid-state batteries, seen as the next frontier in lightweight, long-range and easily charged power cells.
Electrifying crossovers has worked for one of Honda’s key rivals, Toyota. Its RAV4 Hybrid now comprises 25 per cent of total sales.
Considering the shift in North America to light trucks and crossovers (82 per cent of the Canadian market in 2020, according to Statistics Canada), expect Honda’s focus on electrification in North America to be on crossovers, Leclerc said. He comments lower expectations that the Honda e concept compact hatchback unveiled in 2020, would appear in production form here, even if green-lighted elsewhere in the world.
“People are interested in moving towards electrification. People are not prepared to compromise from what they want out of their vehicles today,” he said. “North America is carving its own path to electrification.
“That’s not to imply we’re going to get rid of the passenger car, which is pretty deeply implanted in Honda DNA, but we need to make sure we’re giving people what they want.”