Honda Becomes GM (and Vice Versa)

  • September 29, 2023

Trump told autoworkers the other day that the electric car will put an end to the American car industry – and thus, put an end to their jobs as autoworkers as there won’t be many jobs left when a car becomes an extruded plastic body dropped onto a generic “skate,” the underlying and homogenous made-in-Chyna components of a battery-powered device.

But will also put an end to the Japanese (and German) car industries. It will put an end to the car industry being the point he missed.

Honda is a company that is known for its engines, among these benchmark designs such as the Compound Vortex Combustion Chamber – CVCC  – engine that powered Civics back in the ’70s. This engine was so clean it did not require a catalytic converter to achieve federal emissions certification for sale in 1975, the year practically every vehicle available for sale had to have a chemical exhaust scrubber – which is essentially what a catalytic converter is – in order to be legal to sell in the United States.

Honda also produced incredibly efficient cars like the ’80s-era Civic CRX HF – which had an engine that could deliver better than 50-miles-per-gallon with a carburetor. This is nearly as efficient as the best hybrids are, today.

In the early 2000s, it made the most fuel-efficient hybrid yet offered for sale by a major car company, the Insight. This car was capable of traveling 70 miles on a gallon of gas.

There were also high-performance models like the S2000 roadster and the NSX, both of them powered by engines that spun as fast as race car engines – but lasted longer than almost anyone else’s engines. The NSX was a Ferrari you could drive to work every day – for about half the price of a Ferrari.

People bought Hondas like the Civic and Accord in the millions because they were Hondas – and so not the same as other cars.

Unlike the latest Honda – the 2024 Prologue – which is the same as the GM-badged battery-powered appliance it is derived from underneath its “Honda” badged extruded plastic shell.

The Prologue – a name is apparently meant to conjure thoughts about Honda’s future, which looks bleak – will be one of two Honda-badged extruded plastic shells dropped onto a common GM skate, the so-called “Ultium electric vehicle platform.” These will be “Hondas” in the way aspirin with a house brand label is different from aspirin with a Bayer label.

As in there will be no difference, beyond the label.

This begs the obvious question apparently not being asked within Honda, which is what future can there be for a company that has nothing to offer other than what every other company is already offering?

Do they really think a badge – that no longer has any real meaning – can support a company? This strategy of selling the same thing under different badges did not work out very well for Plymouths – which were the same as Dodges – which is why there is no Plymouth anymore. Nor for Mercury – which resold Fords. GM had trouble selling Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs and Saturns when all they were was rebadged Chevys.

The problem now is everyone is trying to sell Teslas.

Well, they’re being forced to try to sell them – for all practical purposes. That is to say, they are being forced to make electric vehicles and these are all necessarily, fundamentally, the same as Teslas in that all of them are battery-powered devices.

There is only so much you can do to make one cordless drill (or smartphone) meaningfully different from another, other than the color. This one has a different shell. That one has a bigger touchscreen. But you can get yours in any color you like!

GM’s Ultium Platform (notice the verbiage; the implication is GM’s battery is the “ultimate,” just as “fast” charging makes it sound as though you won’t have to wait) is already underneath various House Brand extruded plastic shapes, such as the Chevy Equinox, Blazer, Cadillac Lyriq and Hummer devices. It will be the motive source for Honda’s new devices, the Prologue and its Acura-badged “luxury” version, the ZDX. Honda’s Chief Engineer tries to smear the lipstick on the EV pig by pointing out that the Prologue and the ZDX do not “share any body panels” and the Prologue’s battery will spin the front wheels while the ZDX’s will will spin the rears.

But it will be the same source of motive power spinning both. The same source of motive power that spins GM’s devices. So why bother with Honda’s? What are you getting, in other words, that you don’t get from GM?

And vice versa?

If you thought new vehicles all looked the same just wait. Soon they will be all the same, too. And when they are, there won’t be much need for so many. For the same reason there aren’t more than two brands of aspirin at the store – the House Brand and Bayer. Both the same except for the label and the price.

On the upside, both cure headaches while what’s going to happen to the car industry – and to us – is sure to cause them.

. . .

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