Honda and Nissan confirm they may team up on electric cars, safety tech

After a day (or so) of fevered speculation, Nissan and Honda have confirmed they are investigating whether the automakers should work together in the “fields of vehicle electrification and intelligence”.

Both Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida and Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe fronted a press conference attended by Automotive News.

The CEOs said the automakers are considering sharing electric motors, battery technology, software platforms, and other core electric vehicle (EV) components.

Quite how far-reaching Nissan and Honda’s cooperation will go has yet to be determined, as the two companies have only just signed a memorandum of understanding to “begin a feasibility study of a strategic partnership” in order to “further accelerate efforts toward carbon neutrality and zero traffic-accident fatalities”.

The heads of both Japan’s second largest automaker (Honda) and third largest (Nissan) agree a partnership between the two may be their best bet of staving off an existential threat.

Race for catch up

When asked about the industry’s rapid pace of change, Mibe-san said: “Can we survive? That’s the question. By 2030, we have to be a top runner, in a position to fight against the top players.”

Uchida-san echoed these sentiments, stating: “We cannot afford to be complacent. Emerging players are making inroads with high competitiveness and totally different business models.”

The potential partnership won’t be limited to Japan, but will be global in nature. Both need more EVs in Europe in order to meet the EU’s 2035 deadline for the phaseout of new petrol and diesel car sales.

Chinese automakers, such as BYD, Geely and SAIC, have aggressively invested in electric cars, gaining market share and acceptance in both Europe and China.

Nissan was an early pioneer in the EV field with the Leaf, which, prior to Tesla Model 3 taking off, was once the world’s most popular electric car. Now the Leaf is an also ran, and the only other EVs in its range are the Ariya crossover and Sakura kei car.

With the recent axing of the retro-styled E hatchback, Honda’s electric offerings are currently limited to a clutch of models based on the HR-V — variously marketed as the e:NS1, e:NP1, e:Ny1 and e:N1 — and two cars — the Honda Prologue and Acura ZDX — based on the GM’s Ultium architecture and built by the General.

At this year’s CES, Honda unveiled a number of radically-styled concepts previewing its new 0 Series electric cars that will go on sale globally from 2026.

No rebadging or share purchases, for now

Although it’s early days for the Honda-Nissan relationship, both CEOs said product sharing, badge engineering, and capital cross-holdings won’t be part of discussions.

They did, however, leave the door open to these items further down the road.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has long dreamed about a partnership or merger between Honda and Nissan. Honda’s strong desire for independence, and Renault’s controlling stake in Nissan have kiboshed these hopes.

Since the late 1990s, Nissan has been in a tight partnership with Renault, which rescued the Yokohama-based automaker when it was at death’s door. The two companies have jointly developed platforms and shared procurement, but these ties were loosened after the arrest of then-CEO Carlos Ghosn back in 2018.

Renault and Nissan renegotiated their relationship in 2023, with Renault agreeing to sell down its stake in Nissan from 43 to 15 per cent, and limit its influence. While the two automakers agreed to work on specific projects together, it’s a much looser setup, with both companies free to pursue other partnerships.

The French automaker has strengthened its ties with Geely, and Nissan was reportedly interested in rescuing Fisker.

Meanwhile, Honda and GM have a long standing hydrogen fuel cell partnership. This helped to facilitate Honda using GM’s Ultium architecture for two North American EVs, as well as a plan to bring Cruise’s autonomous taxi tech to Japan by 2026.

It’s unclear if the Cruise deal will go ahead given the division was forced to suspend on-road services after running over and dragging a pedestrian down a street. GM and Honda have also cancelled plans to jointly develop an affordable EV architecture.

Cultural differences

It will be interesting to see how the potential partnership pans out. The two companies have quite distinct cultures, with Nissan being seen as more confrontational, especially with its suppliers, while Honda has long fostered collaboration.

Journalists asked about this, and Mibe-san responded: “Of course, it’s a different company so it has a different culture, but the assumption is that we can overcome these barriers. Even though there are different cultures, there are also commonalities.”

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