Every organization reflects the personality and priorities of its leader. In the Japanese car industry, the two people at the top of the food chain at Toyota and Honda have always been cool to the idea of electric cars. At Toyota, Akio Toyoda in particular has let it be known he thinks about as highly of EVs as he does cockroaches and other vermin.
At Honda, Takahiro Hachigo has been running the show since 2015. While he has not been quite so virulently opposed to electric cars as Toyoda, the company has hardly embraced EVs on his watch. It did create the Honda e, a modern day reincarnation of the original Civic, a few years ago but that car is far too expensive, given its limited range.
Hachigo is best known for consolidating some of the company’s factories, particularly in the UK, and for eliminating some slow selling models in the US such as the Fit and the Civic Coupe. Under his leadership, Honda also announced a major alliance with General Motors that is supposed to help both companies bring new electric and self driving cars to market in North America, so that is a step in the right direction.
Honda did announce recently that it wants electrified cars to make up two-thirds of its vehicle sales by 2030, but the definition of “electrified” is the critical part. That word can include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles, and cars powered by fuel cells. Astute CleanTechnica readers know some plug-in hybrids are better than others when it comes to decarbonizing the transportation sector. In fact, some that are on sale in Europe right now have been found to actually pollute more than the gasoline and diesel powered cars they are supposed to replace. So that pledge regarding the company’s 2030 sales goal rings a bit hollow.
The latest news from Japan has Hachigo stepping down at the end of March, to be replaced by Toshihiro Mibe, who joined the company in 1987. Mibe is more of an engineer than his predecessor, who was more of a marketing guru. According to CNET Roadshow, Mibe has spent most of his time developing actual automotive chassis and powertrain components, which suggests he is a dyed in the wool car guy who is not afraid to get his fingernails dirty. That bodes well for the future of Honda.
Will Mibe help push Honda toward building what Elon Musk calls “compelling electric cars?” If Honda wants to still be in the game a decade from now, he’d better do so.