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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Honda targets people who don’t want to drive with micro cars

A worker adjusts his hat while working between 2018 Honda Accord vehicles during production at the Honda of America Manufacturing Marysville Auto Plant in Marysville, Ohio, on Dec. 21, 2017.   (Ty Wright/Bloomberg)
By Low De Wei and Marika Katanuma Bloomberg

At first glance you might think you’re looking at a photo booth on wheels or a golf cart.

But this is the kind of machine Japan’s Honda Motor is hoping will snag the company a brand new automotive audience – people who don’t want to drive.

The carmaker says it’s considering a range of self-driving electric vehicles targeted at groups including elderly people who no longer drive but still want to get around and the younger, Gen Z crowd which isn’t interested in owning or driving traditional cars.

Honda said it expects growing demand for such casual vehicles, which it calls micromobility devices, as taxi and home-delivery services struggle with staff shortages and as more elderly people seek to remain socially active. The world’s third-largest economy is grappling with a decline in able workers because of an aging population.

Honda has launched a range of concept cars including the rectangular vehicle for four and a two-seater minicar to test the idea, and plans to make the technology available for general use in 2030.

The Tokyo-based company has joined other Japanese automakers seeking to catch up with Tesla and Chinese companies that have roared ahead in the growing global EV market. It has joined forces with Sony Group to make premium EVs in North America by 2025.

Decarbonization efforts by Japan’s three biggest carmakers rank the lowest in the world, according to a Greenpeace study released in September. It also lags behind others in adoption rates, with just 3% of new car sales in the third quarter being electric ones, compared to 14% in Europe and 22% in China, figures collated by the government show.