Honda Dedicates A Factory for Producing Large Hybrids

Honda will dedicate its Yorii factory, north of Tokyo, to producing hybrid SUVs and minivans—instead of making clean diesel vehicles or micro-cars as previously announced. Nikkei is reporting that the Yorii factory will begin production in 2013. Specific models to be produced have not been announced.

In February, we reported that Honda is developing a hybrid system suitable for larger cars such as the Odyssey minivan and the Pilot sports utility vehicle. Tomohiko Kawanabe, Honda’s chief operating officer for automobile research and development, told Reuters, “We’ve left the research stage and entered the field of development.” Kawanabe said these vehicles could hit the US market in about three years—a timeline that coincides with this week’s news about the Yorii factory.

Honda took an early lead in hybrid development about a decade ago, but has since fallen behind in the hybrid and electric vehicle race. The company had been following a two-part efficiency strategy: diesel engines for larger vehicles and hybrid powertrains for cars. However, it appears the carmaker is focusing its mid-term efforts on hybrids.

In April, Honda president Takanobu Ito, said the company had grown “complacent,” and specifically pointed to its poor performance with hybrids as a key sign of the problem. “Even before the green thing was big, they were into green,” Ed Kim, an industry analyst at AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, California, told BusinessWeek. “Over the last few years, they’ve been completely leapfrogged in new engine technologies.”

To correct the situation, Ito is pushing his engineers to have the next-generation Honda Insight beat the Toyota Prius’s fuel economy numbers—and to deliver it as soon as possible. In addition to trying to beat the mileage of the Prius, Ito wants to roll out a new two-motor hybrid technical design—one motor employed to increase engine power and another solely to charge the battery. The new system is also likely to employ lithium ion batteries instead of the nickel metal hydride technology currently in use. Honda reportedly will apply its new hybrid approach to a new minivan and unspecified Acura models.

Honda also been researching pure electric cars, but favors hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a long-term strategy for zero-emissions vehicles.

The combination of relatively low gas prices, and a sluggish economy, have dampened hybrid sales in the U.S. in recent months. It’s a different story in Japan. Toyota’s Prius was the top-selling car in Japan in June for the 14th straight month—due to high gas taxes and generous consumer incentives for hybrids. In June, Toyota sold 31,876 Priuses in Japan, but only 10,988 in the United States.

There are currently no hybrid minivans available to U.S. consumers. Honda is apparently setting its targets for 2013: A high-mpg hybrid minivan; a sedan that beats the mileage of the Toyota Prius; and a hybrid minivan that delivers better MPG than the class-leading Ford Escape Hybrid. If Honda succeeds, it could re-establish its leadership role for fuel efficiency.


  • Charles

    Honda really needs a new hybrid system. The Insight is an embarrassment. I hope Honda “Gets it” again. I also hope that Honda does not make Toyota’s mistake and take its eye off of quality to chase its goal of beating Toyota as Toyota did in chasing GM for sales volume.

  • jason

    FINALLY!!

    so many US families would buy a hybrid Odyssey. just make it already

  • FamilyGuy

    Really three years? C’mon! My current family wagon might not last three years. I should be happy, but three years?

  • Jerry

    Honda is so late it’s pathetic. I gave up on Honda two years ago and purchased a Prius 2010. I’m flabbergasted there is no plugin option on the Toyota models right now. Honda is even worse. What ever happened to vision? GM’s Volt will eat Toyota and Honda’s lunch.

  • JamesDavis

    Honda, you should be an American. Would a simple thanks be okay for now?

  • Rich S

    I know this is completely off subject, but I just traded in my 2007 Escape HEV for a 2010. I went in for an oil change and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Not being in the market for a new vehicle (I was waiting for the plug-in) I just kept saying no, no and no. The 2010 model has more power, better MPG’s, the AC runs while in electric mode, and it syncs with my Iphone. All for an extra $52 a month (for the next 7 year, that’s the downside). But I’ll have more trade in value when the Plug in model finally arrives. Go Ford!!!

  • Dom

    That’s too bad… a clean diesel engine would have been a better choice for the large vehicles I think.

  • veek

    Using the plant to make SUV’s and minivans instead of more fuel efficient cars? Hmmm. Looks like Honda is foregoing its chance at efficiency leadership, in favor of perpetuating the myth that everyone “needs” a big vehicle. Hope everyone else doesn’t do the same thing.

  • amy

    A man walked into a bar room one day. He walked up to the bartender and said, “Bartender, I’d like to buy the house a round of drinks”. The bartender said, “No problem sir, but I’ll need to see some money first”. The guy pulls out a huge electrical service wad of bills and sets them on the bar. Well, the bartender can’t believe what he’s seeing. “Where did you get all that money?”, asked the bartender. “I’m a professional gambler”, replied the man. The bartender said, “There’s no such thing! I mean, your odds are 50-50 at best, right?”. “Well, I only bet on sure things” said the guy.

  • Tammy

    2 men walked down a flight of stairs. One man saw a fire alarm going off and said to the other man we need to get out of the building very quickly. The other man replied if only we had a good Electrician maybe he could turn this damn thing off. I love Electric cars just cant get enough of them.

  • tammy

    A ​electrician charleston SC ​​ into a bar room one day. He walked up to the bartender and said, “Bartender, I’d like to buy the house a round of drinks”. The bartender said, “No problem sir, but I’ll need to see some money first”. The guy pulls out a huge wad of bills and sets them on the bar. Well, the bartender can’t believe what he’s seeing. “Where did you get all that money?”, asked the bartender. “I’m a professional gambler”, replied the man. The bartender said, “There’s no such thing! I mean, your odds are 50-50 at best, right?”. “Well, I only bet on sure things” said the guy.​