I don’t have a lot of love for the traditional automotive industry any more, but I do have a soft spot for Honda. They don’t mind doing some risky things and they don’t take themselves as seriously as most other brands out there.
We’ve just seen that they decided to leave F1 at the end of 2021. They say it’s due to needing to switch to EVs faster than they thought. It was clear for a long time that their projections were incredibly off, so I’m not surprised they got a nasty shock. We don’t know how much Covid has to do with it. Whether the pandemic sped up the decision making process or gave them clarity. Maybe they even saw Tesla battery day and said “oh shit, we have to commit 100% right now”, although I very much doubt that.
The incredibly conservative motorsport media seem to think that Honda can now just buy out a team in FE and it’s problem solved for them. While they could join Formula E and I would personally like to see them do so, it wouldn’t be anything more than a marketing exercise. So here is what I would do if I was running the company right now.
1. Buy or merge with Yamaha Motor
The motorcycle industry is not going to thrive in the upcoming decade. In order to survive, they need to switch focus from powerful fossil fuelled machines designed for leisure use, to practical electric scooters and micromobility products. We know they’ve already been collaborating on battery tech, so a merger or acquisition would be a logical next step.Yamaha have the ability to be very innovative. We’ve seen that in many of their research projects. The two companies combined would complement each other very well in my opinion.
It would also give Honda an entry into the incredibly important e-bike market, which will be absolutely crucial in the next ten years. I also think one of the two companies should acquire the Stroke leaning cargo bike. Cargo is clearly going to be the most crucial of the e-bike segments, and that company is literally asking to be acquired. Someone needs to because it’s a great design that needs to be in the hands of consumers.
2. Immediately pull out of all fossil fuel motorsports
The day after Honda announced they were pulling out of F1, Indycar announced that they were going to introduce hybrid engines in 2023. We don’t need to get into the pathetic timeline for something they should have had years ago. We all know it’s a joke. I just don’t understand why Honda have committed to this. I think it must come down to either the relatively low cost of Indycar, or perhaps they signed a contract a while ago and want to honour it. That’s the Japanese way.
Any fossil fuelled race series they compete in, they should immediately stop. That means MotoGP, WTCR, GT3, Super Formula and Super GT. Although I would hope they’d find a way to make Super GT sustainable, because it’s the only fossil powered motorsport series I still enjoy.
3. Keep being weird
The Honda e is in my opinion the coolest car in the world. It’s not the best car in the world, but it’s the coolest. And that matters. Make it the centrepiece of your brand and replicate it in all your future products. Not just cars. Make them fun and make people smile. Honda does that better than anyone else. Just think of Asimo for example.
4. Immediately end all research and development relating to combustion engines.
Sell the existing models only as you develop EV products. This perhaps should be number one, but it basically goes without saying. And I guess it also should be mentioned that any model currently produced that is sold in hybrid and fossil only versions should immediately stop production of the non-hybrid version.
I think if Honda do something along these lines then they can survive the massive transition that’s gathering pace. But they haven’t got a day to waste. We’re still in the early days of the electric takeover. If they get caught with only the Honda e available when the market really goes crazy then they’ll be in big trouble. I think the key thing for them is just to be different and fun. If they try to do what Tesla are doing then they will cease trading long before anyone in the mainstream business press could possibly imagine.