TOKYO -- Honda Motor plans to build production lines dedicated to electric vehicles and debut its first EV brand in China as the Japanese automaker doubles down on the industry's electrification trend in the world's biggest auto market.
Honda's two joint ventures with local partners Dongfeng Motor and GAC Group will each set up the new production lines, the company said Wednesday. They would be Honda's first such specialized facilities.
GAC Honda will invest roughly 3 billion yuan ($465 million) to transform facilities at a factory in Guangzhou, ramping up annual capacity by 120,000 units, information submitted to local authorities shows. A similar update is also expected at a Dongfeng Honda plant and the aim is to get the new lines up and running in 2024.
Honda had previously sold electric vehicles under brands supplied by partners. Now it is launching its own e:N Series brand, starting with a sport utility vehicle next spring while a coupe is under development. The plan calls for rolling out 10 models -- the first EVs featuring the familiar "H" emblem -- over the next five years.
While driving ranges and prices of the planned EVs were not disclosed, electric vehicles under joint venture brands sell for 150,000 yuan to 180,000 yuan with a range of about 480 km. The e:N vehicles are expected to carry higher price tags.
Electric vehicle brands popular in China come with an extensive menu of cutting-edge technologies. Honda also plans to pack advanced features into the envisioned vehicles, including a large display as well as such tools as map suggestions based on real-time traffic conditions.
"Having a broad range of state-of-the-art technologies from autonomous driving to AI and voice command will be key to sales of the new vehicles," said the head of Chinese research at Fourin, a Japan-based automotive market research company.
Honda intends to open specialized dealerships in urban areas, and will consider exporting the vehicles to other markets.
In April, Honda unveiled an ambitious goal of going gasoline-free by 2040. In China, it aims for 40% of its sales to be electric or fuel cell vehicles by 2030, increasing the proportion to 80% by 2035. Last year, Honda sold 9,418 EVs in China, accounting for less than 1% of total sales. The company will make a complete switch to hybrids and other electrified vehicles starting in 2030, bidding farewell to those that use gasoline as their sole power.
The company also showed off its new Honda Sensing 360 safety system on Wednesday, featuring the addition of millimeter-wave radar units as well as a high-performance camera so that vehicles sense all pedestrians and motorcycles around them. The system will be introduced in China before being applied to all models in developed countries by 2030.