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Geneva Motor Show 2017: Honda reveals European "Electric Vision" strategy; Japanese OEMs unveil new models




Japanese automakers are showcasing new models and concepts at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

IHS Markit Perspective:

  • Significance: Honda has revealed details of its "Electric Vision" strategy, under which it aims to have electrified-powertrain vehicles making up two-thirds of its European model lineup by 2025. The automaker's NueV electric concept made its European debut at the ongoing 2017 Geneva Motor Show. Joining Honda was Toyota with its i-TRIL concept car, while Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) and Suzuki revealed next-generation iterations of their flagship products.
  • Implications: Honda has reiterated it intends to keep Europe at the forefront of its global electric-vehicle strategy, which projects the automaker generating two-thirds of its global sales by 2030 from alternative-powertrain vehicles.
  • Outlook: According to IHS Markit data, key Japanese automakers (Honda, Infiniti, Isuzu, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota) sold 11.1 million vehicles in Europe during 2016, accounting for 12.7% of sales in the region. IHS Markit expects this figure to remain flat at nearly 11.4 million vehicles during 2017, for a 12.9% share.

Japanese automakers Honda, Toyota, Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) and Suzuki have showcased new vehicles and concepts at the ongoing 2017 Geneva Motor Show. While Honda and Toyota used the platform to showcase their ambitions and expertise in alternative-powertrain vehicles, FHI and Suzuki revealed next-generation iterations of their flagship products.

Honda
This year at the Geneva Motor Show, Honda outlined initial details of its new "Electric Vision" strategy for Europe, stating that it aims to have hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) making up two-thirds of its European sales by 2025. Honda Motor Europe's president and chief operating officer (COO), Katsushi Inoue, said that the company will leverage on its global research and development (R&D) resources to accelerate the introduction of a full portfolio of advanced, electrified powertrains for European customers. The first models to arrive under the plan will be hybrids, with one due in 2018, which will feature Honda's two-motor hybrid system. Following that, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), electric vehicles (EVs), and FCVs will also be launched. The automaker is also showcasing the Clarity Fuel Cell model in Geneva. The hydrogen-powered car will be launched in Europe as part of Hydrogen for Innovative Vehicles (HyFIVE) initiative supporting the adoption of fuel-cell vehicles and building a viable hydrogen fuelling infrastructure in the region.

Honda also showcased a pure-electric concept car NeuV (New Electric Urban Vehicle) at the show. In addition to personal trips, owners can also use it as an automated ride-sharing vehicle when not in use. Riders in the NeuV will have access to a full touch-panel interface, a panoramic windscreen, and a sloping belt line designed to make manoeuvring simple. NeuV has two seats with luggage space behind, where Honda's "Kick 'n Go" electric scooter concept bike can be stored.

Toyota
Toyota revealed a new EV concept, the i-TRIL. The electric concept car has a one-plus-two seating arrangement, and will feature an Active Lean technology similar to that of the "i-Road" concept – a compact EV designed for city driving. Toyota said the concept is meant as a "viable alternative" to traditional segment cars and motorcycles for those looking to drive in urban environments. The i-TRIL concept was designed at Toyota's design studio based in Nice, France. The i-TRIL is 1,500 mm long and rides on a 1,200 mm wide front track and 600 mm rear track. Its electric powertrain will offer a driving range up to 200 km and the vehicle will be capable of offering automated driving, although owners will still be able to take back driving if they choose. The automaker did not offer more details about the concept vehicle and it remains to be seen if it will ever enter into production.

Suzuki
Suzuki has revealed the next-generation Swift at the show. Based on a more rigid, lighter new platform called Heartect, the new Swift is offered with two engine options: a 1.2-litre dual-jet engine producing 91 hp and 118 Nm, mated to a newly designed five-speed manual transmission and an improved continuously variable transmission (CVT); and a 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine producing 102 hp offered with a six-speed automatic transmission. Both variants feature Suzuki's SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) mild-hybrid technology, which helps improve fuel economy. Some of the key features include a dual-sensor brake support (DSBS) collision-mitigating system, with a monocular camera and laser sensor.

Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI)
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd (FHI), manufacturer of Subaru brand vehicles, unveiled the all-new Subaru XV crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV) at the show. The vehicle is fitted with a 2.0-litre flat-four gasoline (petrol) engine upgraded with direct injection to boost power from 150 hp to 156 hp. The CVT has a seven-speed manual override, while the all-wheel drive (AWD) remains as standard equipment. In terms of safety, the vehicle offers Subaru's EyeSight stereo camera-based driver assist safety system featuring Pre-Collision Braking Control, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Lane Keep Assist function.

Outlook and implications
Honda said that it intends to keep Europe at the forefront of its global EV strategy. The latest European announcement is in line with Honda's plan for alternative-powertrain vehicles to account for two-thirds of its global sales by 2030. As part of this wider plan, revealed by Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo last year, Honda has goals under two broad themes: the advancement of the company's six-region global operational structure (Asia, Japan, China, South America, North America, and Europe/Middle East/Africa) and the development of challenging products unique to Honda. In January, Honda and General Motors (GM) announced plans to set up a joint venture (JV) to produce a jointly designed, engineered, and developed new generation of fuel-cell systems.

The urban electric concept car NeuV was demonstrated as part of the automaker's "Cooperative Mobility Ecosystem" at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, showing the potential power of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and big data to transform mobility. At its European launch, the NeuV features an "emotion engine" called HANA (Honda Automated Network Assistant), which learns from the driver by detecting emotions behind their judgments. It can apply what it has learnt from the driver's past decisions to make new choices and recommendations.

Toyota's electric concept is meant to showcase the automaker's research into "more engaging environmentally friendly mobility solutions". The vehicle is similar to its three-wheeled i-Road personal mobility, which uses lightweight materials and a low-powered electric motor and offers a constant speed of 30 mph. Both the i-Road and the i-TRIL concept highlight Toyota's commitment to continue its research into ultra-compact EVs for short-distance travel within urban areas. Since 2014, Toyota has been conducting trials of the i-Road on public roads in Toyota City as part of its urban traffic system called Ha:mo, designed for a low-carbon society. The automaker began a second round of consumer trials of the i-Road EV in Japan during September 2016.

On the other end of the spectrum, Suzuki and Subaru followed the traditional path. Suzuki's latest Swift has a 20 mm longer wheel base and is 10 mm shorter than the current Swift. Based on the new B platform, the model is likely to account for nearly 23% of the automaker's European sales in 2017, according to IHS Markit forecasts. Sales of the nameplate are expected to reach 64,195 units in 2017, up 36.4% year on year (y/y). The automaker launched the next-generation Swift in Japan last year.

Since its launch during 2011, the Subaru XV has contributed to the brand's global volumes, with around 165,676 units sold during 2016, accounting for 16.5% of sales. The second generation is one of the first models to benefit from the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), following the latest Impreza. According to the automaker, the new SGP platform will increase the vehicle's body and chassis rigidity by 70–100% for better safety, handling, and ride. Subaru claims the suspension mounts are also stiffer to reduce body roll by 50%, while the steering has been revised for a more direct feel. In terms of dimensions, the XV is larger than the outgoing model. IHS Markit forecasts global sales of the XV will total 175,730 units this year and 184,058 in 2018.

According to IHS Markit data, key Japanese automakers (Honda, Infiniti, Isuzu, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota) sold 11.1 million vehicles in Europe during 2016, accounting for 12.7% of sales in the region. We expect this figure to remain flat at nearly 11.4 million vehicles during 2017, giving a 12.9% share.

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The above article is from IHS Automotive Same-Day Analysis of automotive news, events and trends, and is a deliverable of the World Markets Automotive Service. The service averages thirty stories per day and also provides competitor and country intelligence. Get a free trial.