[Insights] GAC Honda Axes 900 Jobs in Response to Electric Vehicles Revolution

Honda, the Japanese automotive giant, is set to lay off around 900 employees from its Chinese joint venture, GAC Honda. This move comes as the company adjusts to the shifting market focus towards electric vehicles (EVs). Notably, this marks the first instance of job cuts in the 25-year collaboration between Honda and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd. (GAC).

TrendForce’s Insights:

  1. Independent Brands in China Ascend but Japanese and Chinese Joint Ventures Decline

As per GAC Honda’s released data, the cumulative production and sales figures for the first ten months of 2023 witnessed a significant drop of 20.52% and 21.55%, totaling 520,500 and 499,400 vehicles, respectively. Apart from GAC Honda, both GAC Toyota and FAW Toyota have embarked on plans to scale back production or streamline personnel. Mitsubishi Motors announced officially to exit the Chinese market in October 2023, with GAC Aion taking over its factory.

Despite efforts by Japanese automakers to catch up EV revolution, the competition from independent brands remains formidable. GAC Honda and Dongfeng Honda introduced pure electric models like e:NP1 and e:NS1 in the Chinese market. GAC Toyota and FAW Toyota also entered the EV market with models like bZ3 and bZ4X.

However, facing intense competition from independent brands, joint ventures struggle to maintain market share. According to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) data, independent brands claimed 60% of the market share in October 2023, while joint venture brands dropped below 40%. This is a stark contrast to two years ago when independent brands held only 41.2% of the market.

Constrained by the cautious approach of Japanese automakers to vehicle electrification, joint ventures lack a robust lineup of pure electric models, relying mainly on hybrid models. Despite the hybrid technology’s strength in Japanese automakers, they are gradually losing ground to independent brands like Geely and BYD, resulting in a steady decline in joint venture brands’ market share.

  1. Japanese Automakers Urged to Collaborate Openly with Chinese Counterparts

The hybrid models and brand strength of Japanese automakers continue to command a presence in the market, due to current challenges such as EV high prices and range anxiety. However, in the mature Chinese market for pure electric vehicles, Japanese automakers must cede more control over the development of joint venture models to Chinese manufacturers. An example of successful collaboration is Dongfeng Nissan’s Venucia, which is based on Dongfeng Motor’s technology, blending Chinese manufacturers’ expertise with Japanese automakers’ brand strength.

Japanese joint venture brands face challenges, highlighting the necessity for innovative advancements in model technology amid the new energy vehicle era. Faced with the trend towards higher intelligence and electrification in new energy vehicles, Japanese automakers must recognize that their current priority is not to surpass Chinese manufacturers but to navigate the electrification wave successfully. Joint venture brands act as a crucial lifeline, and Japanese automakers can bridge the technological gap by leveraging joint venture platforms, utilizing resources from Chinese manufacturers, and fostering collaboration. The key lies in Japanese automakers transitioning from market development leaders to active learners.


[News] GAC Boosts Investment in Didi’s Auto Driving Venture with up to $1.49 Billion

According to China’s, Guangzhou Auto Group (GAC) announced on October 12th that its board of directors has approved an investment of up to $1.49 billion in Didi’s autonomous driving company. This investment is made through GAC Capital and Guangzhou Development District Investment Group in the form of a special fund, with each contributing equally to its establishment.

GAC’s contribution to GAC Capital will not exceed $0.75 billion, and this capital injection will support Didi’s continuous research and development efforts in autonomous driving technology, accelerating product applications and fostering open collaboration within the industry.

Not the first GAC-DiDi collaboration

In May 2021, GAC Aion and Didi’s autonomous driving company announced their joint effort to develop a mass-market, self-driving electric vehicle. In May 2023, they deepened their collaboration with the “AIDI Project,” marking the establishment of a joint venture. This initiative is a groundbreaking move towards the large-scale production of self-driving, new-energy vehicles in China.

The first mass-produced model, based on GAC Aion’s AEP3.0 high-end electric vehicle platform, will integrate Didi’s autonomous driving L4 urban generalized engine, as well as its self-driving technology for ride-hailing services. By 2025, these vehicles are expected to join Didi’s shared mobility network, facilitating 24/7, large-scale autonomous ride-hailing services and speeding up the commercialization of L4 autonomous driving.

Apart from the investment in Didi’s autonomous driving company, GAC has made various moves in the autonomous driving field. In August this year, GAC’s ride-hailing app platform “Ruqi” submitted its prospectus to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, making its mark as the first autonomous driving operation technology company to go public.

Next Stop for China’s Robotaxi

Robotaxi is a pivotal scenario likely to lead the commercialization of autonomous driving before widespread adoption. GAC’s “Ruqi” has been actively pushing forward the commercialization of Robotaxi and autonomous driving technology over the past two years.

Robotaxi started the development and commercialization in 2021. In October 2022, a hybrid operation combining human-driven ride-hailing and Robotaxi service was launched in Guangzhou. In April 2023, Ruqi obtained the Intelligent Connected Vehicle Demonstration Operation Qualification in Guangzhou’s Nansha District, becoming the first domestic autonomous driving service platform in China to demonstrate operations with a self-developed Robotaxi fleet.

The fundraising from the prospectus submission is intended to be used primarily for the research and development of autonomous driving and Robotaxi operational services (about 40% of the funds) and product upgrades and operational efficiency improvements of mobility services (about 20% of the funds).

Path to Commercializing Autonomous Taxis in China

With the impetus from new players like Tesla, car manufacturers typically follow two paths in autonomous driving development: self-research and collaboration with suppliers. In the new trend, the outreach of automotive suppliers is expanding, as seen in the strategic investments by SAIC Group, General Motors in Momenta, Toyota’s investment in, and GAC’s strategic investment in WeRide

Some high-ranking executives in the autonomous driving industry believe that four key elements are required for the technology’s success: a shared mobility network, autonomous driving technology, support from automotive manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers, and substantial capital support.

Era of Auto-Driving Is Coming                        

UBS Group predicts that by 2030, the global market for autonomous ride-hailing services may exceed $2 trillion, with China being a major force. IHS Markit has also predicted that by 2030, the total market size for shared mobility in China will reach $2.25 trillion, with a compound annual growth rate ranging from 20% to 28%. In this scenario, Robotaxi is expected to account for 60% of the market, with a size of $1.3 trillion, signifying a shift in the future of the ride-hailing market toward autonomous vehicle services.

(Image: Didi)


[News] Mitsubishi Motors Ceases Car Production in China, Possible Takeover by GAC Aion

As reported by Nikkei Chinese, Mitsubishi Motors from Japan has made the decision to halt car manufacturing operations in China. This move comes as Mitsubishi Motors engages in final discussions with its local joint venture partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC Motor).

In China, Mitsubishi Motors has been struggling with reduced sales due to the growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and the increasing appeal of local brands. This strategic shift might have wider implications for other Japanese automakers. What lies ahead for the production facility originally situated in Changsha, Hunan?

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