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Honda and GM Partnerships Throughout the Years: From Rebadged SUVs to Fuel Cell Factories

Honda's recent investment in GM's autonomous tech isn't the first time they've worked together—that dates back to 1993.

Honda and General Motors recently announced a new partnership that will see the Japanese automaker invest $2.75 billion in GM’s Cruise Automation technology. However, this isn’t the first time the two powerhouses have worked together—far from it. 

The investment to develop autonomous vehicles is just the latest of many joint projects that have taken place in recent decades. The two companies first worked together in the ’90s to help fill each other’s gaps in their respective vehicle lineups, and a variety of collaborations continued in one way or another through the 2000s as Honda and GM shared a common vision for the future of mobility.

Given the companies’ knack for innovation, it’s no surprise they have come once again in 2018 to push forward with new technologies. Partnerships of this caliber play a key role in the automotive industry, as they allow manufacturers to allot more resources toward future solutions by working together more efficiently rather than individually at a much higher cost.

These are the five key Honda and GM partnerships that have lead to their newest 12-year, multi-billion-dollar commitment.

1993: Honda Makes a Splash…as an Isuzu

Honda Passport, Honda

In 1993, Honda needed to introduce an SUV and Isuzu needed to introduce a passenger car. This need for collaboration led to Honda rebadging the Isuzu Rodeo as the Honda Passport, and the Isuzu Trooper as the Acura SLX. These vehicles were on sale until 2002 in the Honda lineup when the Pilot and Acura MDX entered the market. Isuzu borrowed the Honda Odyssey and created the Oasis, the Honda Accord became the Asaka, and the Honda Domani became the Isuzu Gemini. 

2003: The Honda-Powered Saturn Vue

Saturn Vue, Getty 

In 2003 GM made the decision to power the popular Saturn Vue with the J35 V6 engine supplied by Honda, giving the crossover a respectable 250 horsepower. This was a part of a 1999 agreement between the two companies that also permitted Honda to use Isuzu diesel engines for its European vehicles. At the time, the press release stated that “GM and Honda will also discuss collaboration on future technological and business opportunities of mutual benefit.”

2013: New Fuel Cell Technologies

Honda FCX Clarity, Getty 

In 2013 both automakers agreed to develop and test new fuel cell technologies, albeit with separate test programs. GM said in a statement that road-going hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would be available to the public by the year 2020, and even supported a fleet of 119 hydrogen vehicles through its Project Driveway. Honda also released the FCX and eventually it’s successor the FCX Clarity as its hydrogen vehicle test beds, with both automakers ultimately filing 1,200 patents related to fuel cell technologies.

2017: Fuel-Cell Manufacturing

Fuel Cell, General Motors

Both automakers announced plans to establish a joint fuel cell manufacturing center in Michigan in 2017. The facility, which is estimated to be ready by 2020, will be the first mass production center of hydrogen fuel cells in the automotive industry. The venture is called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing and its board of directors contains executives from both automakers. 

2018 and the Coming Years

Cruise Automation, General Motors

Earlier this year, GM and Honda announced plans to work together on battery technologies, including advanced chemistry battery components, cells, and modules. In addition, Honda’s $2.75 billion investment over the next 12 years to help spur autonomous vehicle technology development should pay big dividends for two of the most ambitious automakers on earth.

“Honda chose to collaborate with Cruise and General Motors based on their leadership in autonomous and electric vehicle technology, [along with] our shared vision of a zero-emissions and zero-collision world,” said Honda Executive Vice President and Representative Director COO Seiji Kuraishi.

In the coming years, the joint efforts performed by the Detroit- and Tokyo-based companies are supposed to produce a ground-breaking, hydrogen-powered vehicle that can be refueled like most modern-day gasoline cars, along with the necessary infrastructure for its mass production.