Honda and GM team on EVs and smart cars in North America

Honda and General Motors plan to team up on new models for North America, potentially sharing platforms for both electric and internal combustion vehicles with a variety of body styles. The non-binding memorandum of understanding follows the two automaker's earlier agreement to jointly-develop two new Honda EVs based on the GM Ultium platform that will power upcoming cars like the Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer EV.

If the new collaboration works out, though, things could get even more enmeshed. The North American automotive alliance that Honda and GM have in mind would include a range of co-developed vehicles, with cooperation across everything from research and development, purchasing, and connected services.

There'd be common vehicle platforms, with both electrified and more traditional internal combustion propulsion depending on model. What it won't mean, though, is either brand disappearing in the US and Canada. Both companies would launch models under their own distinct brands, even if the underlying tech and engineering was shared.

The goal, of course, is a more efficient route to production vehicles. "An alliance in North America between Honda and GM would leverage the best technologies and generate substantial cost efficiencies from shared vehicle platforms and propulsion systems, joint purchasing, potential manufacturing efficiencies and other collaboration efforts," the two automakers suggest. "This would enable both GM and Honda to make greater investments in advanced and next-generation technologies."

In short, working together to develop a single platform will be cheaper overall than both Honda and GM simultaneously – but separately – working on their own next-gen portfolio. Meanwhile actually producing those vehicles, including buying the parts from suppliers, could be more cost-effective given the shared parts involved.

For consumers, as well as a quicker route to next-generation vehicles, there's also the promise of more interconnectivity. For example, Honda plans to use GM's OnStat connected services for the two new Honda-branded electric vehicles using the Ultium platform, with the system integrated into HondaLink. Beyond that, should this new agreement go ahead, Honda and GM could expand that to everything from vehicles' electrical architecture, advanced driver assist systems, infotainment, connectivity, and vehicle-to-everything communication.

It's a potentially very valuable shortcut. Both Honda and GM have been criticized in recent years for their approach to electrification in particular in the North American market, with limited all-electric options to cater to the growing segment. Both have aggressive roadmaps for changing that – and for integrating more efficient gas engines in hybrids and plug-in hybrids – but that's an expensive and time-consuming process.

Talks to plan how co-development could be enacted will begin immediately, the two automakers say. If all goes to plan, engineering work is expected to kick off in early 2021.