Honda Hastens EV Shift in U.S. with Mass Market, Upscale SUVs

Honda Motor Co. took a step closer toward a goal of electrifying its U.S. lineup by naming an upcoming all-electric model and adding a battery-powered sport-utility vehicle to its upscale Acura brand.

The Japanese automaker, which last year partnered with General Motors Co. to develop electric vehicles, said Monday its new Honda Prologue and an accompanying Acura model will debut in 2024. The two SUVs are part of the company’s global move to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles completely by 2040 and represent an effort to accelerate the arrival of EVs in Honda’s U.S. showrooms.

They are the vanguard of a series of all-electric models Honda plans to roll out in North America and will be powered by GM’s Ultium battery. Honda declined to say where the SUVs will be built or provide any description of their design or features.

The Prologue will compete as a mainstay model with sales volume rising to the level of its popular gas-powered Passport and Pilot SUVs -- between 40,000 to 140,000 vehicles a year, Dave Gardner, executive vice president of Honda’s U.S. subsidiary, told reporters at a briefing. “We’re not envisioning this to be a slow ramp-up. Once we get going, we’re going to get going.”

Honda’s decision to speed up its electrification in the U.S. was influenced in part by President Joe Biden’s efforts to spur adoption of EVs, including his administration’s $174 billion plan to transform the auto industry by building out charging infrastructure.

“The Biden Administration has been kind of a -- let’s not call it a tipping point -- but certainly has pointed us in this direction,” Gardner said.

All-Electric Future

Other carmakers, including GM and Volkswagen AG, also have embraced an all-electric future, hastening a shift away from the internal combustion engine that has dominated the auto industry for decades. By 2030, non-EV cars will account for less than half of overall light vehicle registrations in Europe, China and the U.S. -- the world’s largest auto markets, according to Ernst & Young LLP.

Japanese archrival Toyota Motor Corp. has taken a go-slow approach to full electrification but has stepped up plans for introducing EVs to the U.S. market. Toyota said earlier this year it will start sales of a pair of all-electric vehicles in 2022 -- two years ahead of Honda. The bZ4X crossover and an as-yet-unnamed Lexus model will be built on the same platform.

While Honda introduced its first mass-produced EV to the European and Japanese markets last year, the Prologue will be the first dedicated battery-electric model sold in the U.S. Toshihiro Mibe, who took over as CEO in April, has made electrification a hallmark of his tenure as Honda seeks to compete with a wave of EVs from established rivals and newcomers alike.

Honda previously sold a battery-powered version of its Clarity sedan in North America from 2017 but limited the model’s distribution to residents of California and Oregon. The EV version of the Clarity was discontinued in 2020.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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