China lifts ban on foreign factories, Honda sets up factory in China

You could argue that the western world’s quietest business week is this week between Christmas and New Years, and in that nebulous, watered and cheese-filled week of relative silence, the news broke that China lifted decades-old ban on foreign ownership of Chinese auto factories. Tesla already had its Chinese plant, so it seemed to be business as usual – until Honda announced plans to build a massive electric vehicle plant in China.

The new plant will be built by Honda Motor (China) Investment Co., Ltd., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Honda (think “Porsche” and “PCNA”) and Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co., Ltd., a company of Honda sales. JV in China. The plant will be “a new dedicated electric vehicle (EV) production plant … with a view to expanding its range of electric vehicles in the years to come”.

Honda’s new plant will cover 630,000 square meters of land (about. 155 acres) in Wuhan Economic Development Zone in Hubei Province, China, and will provide sufficient capacity to produce 120,000 unnamed electric vehicles per year. But, even though Honda did not explicitly Saying what it was going to build there, we already know two things about what Honda is going to build there, thanks to the “e: N series” of Scooter Doll concept cars covered in October (shown, top) .

We will come back to that.

Render of Honda’s new electric vehicle plant, courtesy of Honda.

The new electric vehicle plant is designed to be a highly efficient “smart” plant capable of producing electric vehicles “from start to finish”. It means everything from stamping and welding to painting, assembling and inspecting vehicles. Honda also claims that the plant will also strive to achieve a state-of-the-art level of automation, mainly in the assembly area.

In its press release, Honda says its new Wuhan plant “will proactively pursue sustainability initiatives, which will include the use of renewable energy sources such as solar power to achieve carbon neutrality, the use of recycled water … and reduction of VOC emissions. “

Honda has been criticized for its “pathetic ambitions for electric vehicles” in North America, having previously announced a target of 100% “electric” sales by 2040. It is well twelve years behind. Chrysler – and, as we have noted, the automaker is still betting on fuel cell hydrogen to achieve this goal and is building its “volume” electric vehicles in the US market on GM’s Ultium platform.

It remains to be seen whether this new Wuhan plant is the start of a flip-flop for Honda, showing a new commitment to BEVs, or an isolated attempt to capitalize on China’s cheap labor pool. and favorable trading conditions for locally built cars. Time will tell us.

Taking Electek

Images of a production-ready, battery-electric version of Honda’s upcoming e: NP1 / HR-V successor were recently leaked online, but their previous claims that the first volume Electric vehicles in the US market would be based on the Ultium platform and give the impression that it was an exclusively Chinese product; there is speculation that it could reach other markets in limited number. This speculation was fueled by comments from Christophe Decultot, president of Honda Benelux (Belgium), which was quoted by TopElectric SUV saying, “At the Shanghai Auto Show earlier this year, there was a concept car. Although this model was developed for the Chinese market, there is a chance that the car will also come to Europe. “

I feel like Honda is playing games here with terms like “volume,” and we’ll have smaller, Chinese-made EVs – if not the e: NP1, itself – to fill the void left by the Fit, which was withdrawn from the North American market at the end of 2020, and acts as a California compliance car for the Mazda MX-30 EV.

Which would you prefer to have?

 honda hr-v electric, e-np1
Image courtesy of Honda.

Sources | Images: Forbes, Honda.

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