Electric cars, as intelligent and efficient as they may be, haven't exactly provided the "jolt" to the automotive industry that manufacturers expected when they first rolled off the assembly lines in the early 2000s.
However, in 15 years or less, sales will be so swift that electric vehicle models will account for the majority of a well-known nameplate's lineup, one of the world's largest automakers recently predicted.
Honda Motor Company Chief Executive Officer Takahiro Hachigo announced in February that if all goes as planned, 66% of the company's sales will be partially or fully electric cars, several news outlets reported, including The Wall Street Journal.
Though electric vehicle purchases have been somewhat slow in the United States, as detailed in monthly sales reports from the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen, and Nissan – three automakers that offer electric models – sales have been more robust at the global level. According to a sales forecast from Research and Markets, global electric vehicle sales are anticipated to swell by 10.5% between 2015 and 2019. Additionally, when including Canada, the electric vehicle market in North America is poised to grow at a rate of 24% over the next four years.
Electrics only 5% of sales today
Thus far, Honda has only tiptoed into the electric vehicle waters, as electrified powertrains comprise only about 5% of Honda's sales, the Journal reported. Of these, most use a combination of gas and electric, better known in the industry as hybrids. This month, however, the Tokyo-based automaker intends to start mass-producing fuel-cell sedans for a worldwide audience as well as 100% electric cars in the United States, just on a more limited basis.
Honda has been the beneficiary of a steady string of solid sales reports over the past year or so. With an assist from its two largest markets in the U.S. and China, the company sold 4.7 million vehicles last year alone, the Journal reported, a 6% uptick in worldwide sales from 2014. The crush of sales has led to a $4.7 billion profit for the automaker stretching back to March 2015.
Honda has also been the recipient of some highly coveted awards, perhaps none more impressive or desirable than the North American Car of the Year. Handed out annually by a group of 53 international automotive journalists, the Honda Civic is the 2016 North American Car of the Year award recipient, the model's second decoration in the past 10 years.
"The all-new Civic was developed and is built in North America, making this North American Car of the Year win even sweeter," Jeff Conrad, Honda Division Senior Vice President and General Manager said earlier this year. "Civic is a cornerstone of the Honda lineup, and we're delighted that the automotive press has recognized the new levels of styling, performance, advanced technology, safety and value that characterize the new Civic."
Resources focused on electrification moving forward
Honda executives are confident that they'll be able to transform their groundswell of growth into the electric vehicle sphere. However, it will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to make it a reality, Hachigo stressed.
"People working on production and development have been facing increased hours and workload because we pursued speed and scale that went beyond our capabilities," Hachigo mentioned during a recent press conference. "We want to focus our development resources for electrification."
Honda will be in good company, as other major automakers intend to ramp up electric vehicle production. Both Toyota and General Motors have spoken to this in recent months, with GM aiming to sell a half-million electrified vehicles by this time next year.