Gas2 Week In Review, August 27: All About Asian Automakers

For a country that cried, “Make America Great Again!,” the Top 3 U.S. automakers seem to be lagging behind their Asian counterparts, that is, if the stories that most excited our Gas2 readers about Asian automakers this week are any indication.

The story that generated the top reader comments looked to Honda, as one of the Top 10 global automakers, and how the Asian automaker has turned its attentions from the U.S. marketplace to China, based on recent profitability comparison statements. So, too, did Toyota’s announcement of contractual relationship with 7-11 for a line of hydrogen fuel cell powered delivery trucks reignite reader debate about the viability of hydrogen fuel cell technology in an era of increasingly efficient EV batteries.

The soon-to-be-released 2017 Nissan LEAF model also spurred opinions about how to best satisfy the need to extend travel distances beyond the capacity of current battery range (read: “range anxiety” conversations continued). And a photo series of the Yamaha T7 adventure touring bike allowed us to wonder when the next retro knockoff would be all-electric…

Here are those stories and more on this week’s edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review.”

Asian automakers

This Is How The Decline Of The US Auto Industry Begins — Honda Shifts Focus To China

The recent elevated profit market in China at 9.6% has led Honda to turn its attentions from its former U.S. focus. A U.S. Honda market gross profit per vehicle of about 4.9% no longer competes with the huge Chinese market. Kotaru Shimizu, general manager for sales at Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co., one of Honda’s two joint ventures in China, acknowledged recently that China does have a high priority within the company. “I think we will likely put more emphasis on listening to Chinese customer voices going forward.” If the conventional wisdom of global resource allocation no longer makes fiscal sense, it is because global automakers are now experiencing the success of the China market. Asian automakers like Honda who have begun to refocus their product to a new Chinese audience will be formulating many strategic product decisions, ones that no longer depend on a U.S. marketplace and culture.

The fascinating Gas2 reader comments to this story debated the essential difference in U.S. and Chinese government green policies and their raison d’être. One reader, for example, said the Chinese government is positioning itself within the global automotive market through green transport. “Electric buses, for example, embolden city governments around the world to demand clean transport, thus giving the advantage to the Chinese. Others will not catch them. The same is true in personal transportation.” Another reader countered that “Chinese have no rights. The ruling elite do as they please.”

You just gotta read these comments — they’re quite thought-provoking and lead us to think more seriously about the effects of Asian automakers on the future of green transportation.

Toyota and 7-11 Partner Up for Hydrogen

Toyota’s Hino Motors unit will be building an exclusive line of hydrogen fuel cell powered delivery trucks. The company, 7-11, has the initial contract, with the transportation goal of moving goods from its 20,000+  locations to delivery centers. The move is part of a larger effort by 7-11 to reduce its carbon emissions in Japan and promote more environmentally friendly vehicles. The company plans to extend its overall alternative fuel options to 20% by 2020.

Of the various comments our Gas2 readers offered about the possibility of more hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles, one savvy person summed it up.

“Mercedes, BMW, and even Honda are quietly backing away from hydrogen and moving forward with battery EV projects.Scale matters, these automakers may still have an r&d team for hydrogen fuel cells, and occasionally remind everyone with a press release and a promise… But they actually build BEVs.”

How Utterly Awesome Is The 2018 Nissan LEAF?

The new Nissan LEAF, which is scheduled to be released on September 6, 2017, is full of Nissan’s most advanced technologies. The LEAF offers the complement of available Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies, which infuses drivers with confidence due to enhanced vision capabilities. The e-Pedal, too, an improvement in regenerative braking, enables one-pedal driving. Like many Asian automakers, Nissan sought to innovate the EV industry when it launched the LEAF as the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle. Nissan promotes itself as the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, with more than 280,000 units sold.

Readers bantered about the pro’s and con’s of needing to travel farther with an EV than the distance between fast chargers. Should an EV owner rent a “normal” car for those few times a year when battery capacity doesn’t suffice? Is the extra expense involved in a rental worth it? Check out the reader comments and join in the discussion.

Yamaha T7 Adventure Tourer Concept (20 Photos)

While not actually part of our conversation about the dominance of Asian automakers, the folks over at Yamaha have been capturing the attention of a U.S. audience for a long time. Sure, Harley Davidson is generally equated with the freedom-loving U.S. motorcycle industry, but Yamaha’s adventure touring bikes have a real appeal for millennials. A bit of a throwback to the XT600Z Ténéré of the 1980s, today’s Yamaha T7 concept bike is powered by a 700cc CP2 engine in a lightweight alloy frame. The suspension and an expensive Akrapovic exhaust work in unison to inspire a trendy, off-road mood. The Yamaha T7 may be just the fit to offer the genuine long distance versatility and dependability of the original Ténéré along with alluring and trendy design, contemporary engine specs, and innovative chassis technology.

In keeping with our Gas2 overarching theme of sustainable transportation technology, one reader aptly posed the question, “Where’s their Electric?” That’s a question that many motorcycle fans are asking as we all look to ways to limit our carbon footprints. But will U.S. riders sacrifice power for reduced emissions? That’s hard to say, at least right now.

Have a good week, Gas2 fans. We’ll talk to you next Sunday. In the meantime, let us know what you think of our new look. What do you think? Does it work for you?

Photo credit:


Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+