Honda unveils plans for new EV lineup

(Reuters) -Japanese automaker Honda Motor announced on Tuesday plans to launch a new electric vehicle series from 2026, as it plays catch-up with global rivals in the shift to battery-powered cars.

Japan’s second-biggest car maker has been slow to step up EV sales, lagging behind European and U.S. competitors such as General Motors and Volkswagen, while facing a challenge from newer rivals such as China’s BYD.

Honda unveiled its “Honda 0 Series” and two concept models at the CES trade show in Las Vegas that it hopes will help it reach its goal of having battery-powered and fuel-cell vehicles make up all of its new car sales by 2040.

The automaker aims to roll out the first models of its new series by 2026, Honda executives told a December media briefing in Tokyo ahead of the announcement. The series will be launched globally, starting from the North American market.

The executives did not share at that briefing details of the series, such as pricing or how many models the company will launch as part of it and how many vehicles it seeks to sell.

Battery powered vehicles accounted for less than 0.5% of Honda’s worldwide sales of about 2.8 million cars over the first nine months of 2023, coming to about 11,000 vehicles, according to company data.

It sold about 10,400 of those, or around 93%, in China, but none in North America.

Honda has previously said it plans to build two million EVs globally a year by 2030 and has laid out a target to introduce 30 models powered solely by a battery by that year.

Canadian officials are meeting representatives of Honda this week, a government source said, following a news report that the car maker was considering building an almost 2 trillion yen ($13.9 billion) electric vehicle plant in the country.

“There is a possibility that we will build a plant in Canada,” Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe was quoted by the Nikkei business daily as telling reporters on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

One concept model it showcased at the CES trade show was the Saloon, a sedan that was likely to seat four or five passengers.

While parts of its design may still change, the concept was likely to resemble quite closely how the vehicle would look in production, executives said at the Tokyo briefing.

The other concept the automaker unveiled was the Space-Hub, a van-like vehicle that was expected to seat six or seven people, the executives said.

Honda also disclosed its new EV series will sport a revamped logo that will use a more tilted and sleeker design than its existing one.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink in Tokyo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)