GM And Honda Are Getting More Serious

From the 1997 Honda Passport brochure
From the 1997 Honda Passport brochure
Photo: Honda via Auto Brochures
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GM and Honda just established a “strategic alliance” here in North America, which could include selling cars together. If this means we’re getting a Chevy-branded Honda E, count me in! All that and more in The Morning Shift for September 3, 2020.

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1st Gear: Probably Just The Passport All Over Again

I don’t know if you remember the Isuzu Rodeo-based Honda Passport of the 1990s and early 2000s, but it’s the last serious Honda and GM partnership I can think of. What kind of good it did for either Honda or GM I cannot say, but I hope we don’t just get another Passport situation out of this deal, announced today with few details.

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The two companies said earlier this year they will be making two new electric cars together after, previous to that, saying they would work on batteries together. 

From Honda’s press release today:

General Motors and Honda today announced they have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding following extensive preliminary discussions toward establishing a North American automotive alliance. The scope of the proposed alliance includes a range of vehicles to be sold under each company’s distinct brands, as well as cooperation in purchasing, research and development, and connected services.

Under the proposed alliance, Honda and GM would collaborate on a variety of segments in North America, intending to share common vehicle platforms, including both electrified and internal combustion propulsion systems that align with the vehicle platforms. Co-development planning discussions will begin immediately, with engineering work beginning in early 2021.

The announcement builds on the agreement signed between the companies in April to jointly develop two all-new electric vehicles for Honda based on GM’s highly flexible global EV platform powered by Ultium batteries. The GM-Honda relationship, which began more than two decades ago, includes recent collaboration between the companies on fuel cells, batteries and the Cruise Origin shared autonomous vehicle.

Happy as I would be for this to mean we’d get a hastily reworked Honda E as, I don’t know, a new Chevy Vega, I think this will actually just end up with some all-electric Honda crossover.

2nd Gear: Yet Another Study Finds EVs Too Expensive

The Financial Times put a frame on this story that gets close to the point in a report titled, “Appetite for electric cars in UK wanes as pandemic squeezes finances.

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The story discusses an Auto Trader survey in the UK that buyers seemed less interested in EVs as the global pandemic made our jobs and sense of job security disappear:

A survey by Auto Trader of 2,300 consumers in January found 16 per cent were planning to buy a battery-only car. But in an August survey of 2,700 people, just 4 per cent were considering a pure electric car.

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The meat of the matter comes a few lines down:

“At a time of economic uncertainty car buyers are reverting to the type of vehicles they are more familiar with, and what they consider to be the most affordable choice, namely petrol and diesel cars,” said Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s commercial director.

“Since cost is the primary consideration for most car buyers, the upfront retail price of EVs [electric vehicles] is somewhat off-putting.”

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This is a very long way of saying that EVs are too expensive. Car companies like to talk about how new tech and development is bringing down the costs of EVs they design, but they gloss over that they could just be switching all their lineups over to simpler, less luxurious EV designs right this moment.

3rd Gear: Nissan Says It Made A Breakthrough In Mass-Producing Carbon Fiber

Speaking of! Nissan announced today that it thinks it figured out how to make carbon fiber in a cheaper way, allowing for more mass-produced carbon, as Jiji Press reports in Nippon.com:

Its new technology will shorten the time needed for forming parts by some 80 pct from conventional methods to make CFRP pats. Costs involved will also be smaller. The use of CFRP parts will make a vehicle 80 kilograms lighter, according to the company.

Currently, automakers are racing to develop electric vehicles, but are facing the challenge of reducing the weight of such vehicles, equipped with motors and batteries.

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Nissan could also make its cars 80 kilos lighter by making them all a little bit smaller, but that doesn’t make for a fun press release.

4th Gear: Daimler Says It’s Building An Autonomous Semi Truck Testing Center In New Mexico

The march towards replacing truck drivers with robots continues, and Daimler announced today that it’s expanding its testing in America for autonomous semi-trucks. From its press release:

September 2020 marks one year of Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics partnering as a team after the U.S. based automated driving technology company became part of Daimler Trucks’ Autonomous Technology Group. One year together, collaboratively pursuing a common goal of bringing series-produced highly automated trucks (SAE Level 4) to the roads within the decade; including on-road deployment of a Level 4 test fleet, initiation of redesign of truck chassis, adoption of a hub-to-hub model, formalized rigorous testing protocols, formal truck safety driver certification process, and extended software capabilities. Now, the Autonomous Technology Group will extend its testing to New Mexico by building up a new testing center in Albuquerque. Expanding to a new location will support testing and provide data for more use cases of next generation vehicles on public roads starting this fall.

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5th Gear: French Oil Group Total Steps Towards ‘Iraqification’ Of Mozambique

This is not strictly car news, but relates to cars and also post-colonialism, a heady topic for the auto industry. The story is that the French oil giant Total is having a hard time with its oil fields in Mozambique, and is stepping up security measures that look real bad, as the Financial Times reports:

After insurgents with ties to Isis took over a key port in northern Mozambique last month, Total said it would provide logistical support to a government “joint task force” to strengthen security at liquefied natural gas facilities. Total told the Financial Times on Wednesday that this task force would be run by the Mozambican ministries of defence and the interior, which oversee the army and police.

“It is a defining moment” in the “Iraqification” of the conflict, said Piers Pigou, a southern Africa consultant with the International Crisis Group. Total’s security deal, which will allow for the defence of its facilities on the Afungi peninsula in the province of Cabo Delgado, underlined “the dangers of a security approach that ironclads the green zone [of LNG development] and does very little for the rest of the country”, he said. 

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This is a tricky issue, tricky in that nobody really looks good on either side, which is just some of the damage you get when gigantic foreign companies extracting resources out of poorer ones.

Reverse: Nailed It

Via History:

On September 3, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson embarks on a tour across the United States to promote American membership in the League of Nations, an international body that he hoped would help to solve international conflicts and prevent another bloody world war like the one from which the country had just emerged—World War I. The tour took an enormous toll on Wilson’s health.

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Neutral: What Would You Like To See From A GM-Honda Partnership?

I have no clue how we’d get the S660 here, but I will never stop dreaming.

CORRECTION: This post initially stated that the Passport was based on the Trooper. This is a mix-up. The Acura SLX was based on the Trooper. The Passport was an Isuzu Rodeo. We gravely regret the error.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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Neutral: GM Honda Partnership:

Corvette branded mower at Home Depot.

Imagine the boomers going crazy over this? (sorry for weak 2 min photoshop job).

Got to fire up the vette and do a little yard work.