Shanghai’s auto show is filled with hybrids and electric cars – a big industry theme in the months since massive blankets of pollution covered entire regions. But Honda Motor Co. CEO Takanobu Ito doesn’t think Chinese consumers are looking for green-tech rides despite the new wave of eco-friendly cars unveiled during the show, or amid and the Japanese auto maker’s own push to strengthen its hybrid lineup in recent years.
“Overall, we have high hopes for hybrid technology. In terms of how important it is to the Chinese market we are slowly releasing products and looking at how they do,” Mr. Ito told reporters in Shanghai on Saturday. “But we think there are still more Chinese consumers who want to simply buy a car that fits their needs rather than buy a hybrid. By needs I mean a good-quality car with an affordable price that doesn’t break down. At present, we think these take higher priority.”
None of the four new concept and production vehicles introduced by Honda at the auto show on Saturday were hybrids or electric. Honda introduced three hybrid vehicles to the Chinese market last year–the CR-Z, Insight and Fit Hybrid– and plans to begin preparations to produce hybrid components there in 2014.
Honda said it only sold 542 hybrid vehicles in China in 2012.
- This mindset could eventually change, pushed along by more stringent fuel-economy standards and the government’s pressure to build a green-car industry in China. Mr. Ito said that the technology would require additional costs no matter what, a premium that many consumers aren’t yet willing to pay. But that could be alleviated with measures like government incentives, which have encouraged consumers to try out hybrids.
Mr. Ito said Honda will continue to gradually add hybrid vehicles to its catalog of offerings amid promising signals that the Chinese government will enact policies that would make purchasing hybrids a more attractive option.
The hurdles for facing mass market acceptance of electric vehicles are tough too, said Mr. Ito, noting the lack of infrastructure and how Chinese driving habits aren’t yet well-suited to the limited mileage range offered by the battery-powered cars.