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New Honda Canada CEO dismisses electric vehicles as a ‘political agenda’

Newly appointed Honda Canada CEO Jean Marc Leclerc is not keen on electric vehicles. In an interview with the Windsor Star, he trots out all the typical anti-EV arguments: too expensive, not practical, money-losing, and no demand.

Leclerc pays lip service to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Apparently, he’s not opposed to rising to 100% by 2040. But Leclerc doesn’t want politicians to dictate the technology used by carmakers to achieve that goal.

But there’s only one other so-called zero-emission technology: hydrogen. And yet Honda is putting its hydrogen fuel-cell program on hold. In November, Katsushi Inoue, Honda Europe’s president, said:

Maybe hydrogen fuel cell cars will come, but that’s a technology for the next era. Our focus is on hybrid and electric vehicles now.

Meanwhile, Honda’s Canada chief’s primary arguments against EVs are that they are too expensive, and consumers don’t want them. He cites studies showing that Canadians are willing to pay $700 more to purchase an electric vehicle, but given the necessary investment, “the math doesn’t work.”

He said:

The reality is we’re a long way from that $700 difference in a cost perspective.

Leclerc is ignoring that the CEOs of General Motors and Ford, among others, believe that EVs are either profitable now or soon will be.

General Motors this month announced that it will work with Honda to produce two next-generation EVs. Honda will develop the two models with unique interior and exterior designs. The Honda-badged EVs are expected to go on sale in the United States and Canada in the 2024 model year.

So perhaps that’s at the soonest a three-year wait for a single Honda EV available to North American consumers.

Here’s Leclerc in his own words:

Nobody wants to talk about how much [EVs] cost and what people are prepared to pay. They’re just forging forward, thinking we have all the solutions, and we don’t.

There’s a political agenda. It’s easy for people to understand zero-emission vehicles as a political statement.

With EVs, you’re basically getting a trickle right now. If you’re looking at saving the planet and having heavier reductions of GHG, the math doesn’t work.

The heavy investments you need to invest to produce EVs, and you’re questioning whether you’ll be able to sell those at a profit. That’s why we’re really concerned about governments putting out more zero-emission mandates that will not really achieve a great deal of GHG reduction in the short term.

Honda e plugged in

Leclerc’s arguments closely match what Honda’s worldwide CEO said in December when he extolled the virtues of hybrids over EVs.

In our discussions with the government, we basically tell them just give the GHG reduction targets you’re looking for and let us figure out how to achieve them.

Don’t impose a technology. Don’t impose EVs, that’s a big topic in imposing zero-emission vehicles.

Even for us to meet the government’s general standards in Canada, we’re going to need to sell a lot of gasoline-hybrid vehicles.

Electrek’s Take

We know that Toyota is anti-EV, except for the Chinese market, where it’s required.

But Honda is harder to figure out. They quit diesel and put hydrogen on hold. It offers the cute Honda e in Europe, but not the United States. And the Japanese automaker will work with GM to make at least two new EVs by 2024.

With the Clarity EV out of the market, that leaves the company with precisely zero electric vehicles to sell in North America for the next three-plus years. That might explain why Honda’s chief in Canada doesn’t want the government to require a quick transition to electric vehicles.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.