Honda cites growing electric car demand for Hitachi venture

Honda Motor Co. plans to set up a joint venture with Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. to develop, produce and sell motors for electric vehicles, citing the expected increase in demand for electric autos with tougher environmental standards.

The joint venture has plans to manufacture in Japan, U.S. and China, and will consider using Hitachi’s existing plants in those countries, Hitachi Automotive Chief Executive Officer Hideaki Seki said at a briefing in Tokyo Tuesday. The new company will also sell to automakers other than Honda if there’s demand, he said.

Carmakers are forging partnerships amid pressure from regulators and rising costs for developing cleaner vehicles and self-driving cars. Toyota Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. on Monday signed an agreement to undertake a “concrete examination” of a business partnership. Honda last month said it will jointly manufacture fuel-cell systems with General Motors Co.

Establishing a joint venture with Hitachi can save costs as motor production requires huge capital investment, Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at the briefing. It will also combine the advantages of both companies to advance the competitiveness of the motors from the joint venture, he said.

Tokyo-based Hitachi Automotive, established in 2009, is a subsidiary of the conglomerate Hitachi Ltd. The company first started selling motors for electric vehicles in 1999 and supplies them to Nissan Motor Co., Toyota and General Motors.

The motors from the Honda-Hitachi venture will be used for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, Hachigo said. Even with the new company, Honda will continue to make its own motors and keep production lines in Japan, he said.

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