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Honda, GM to launch joint venture to produce fuel-cell car systems

Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Co. of the United States said
Monday they will establish a U.S. subsidiary to jointly produce
next-generation systems for hydrogen-powered vehicles in the country.

The two automakers, which have cooperated to develop systems for
fuel-cell vehicles since 2013, aim to launch production in the
fifty-fifty joint venture around 2020, they said.

American Honda Motor President Toshiaki Mikoshiba told a press
conference in Detroit that the companies decided to set up a
manufacturing base in Michigan "mainly because America is the world's
biggest market for fuel cells."

The automakers aim to gain a competitive edge over their rivals
in the race to further develop the environment-friendly vehicles by
reducing high production costs through the mass-production tie-up.

But the companies did not disclose at the press conference the
expected impact of the joint venture on profits.

Honda and GM are seeking to downsize fuel batteries and their
peripheral devices, with the aim of using them in fuel-cell vehicles
they plan to sell from 2020, they said.

The two automakers will invest $4.25 million each to establish
the joint venture at a GM factory in Michigan, which will likely
create around 100 new jobs.

They plan to build a new production line to churn out fuel cells
at the Michigan factory, which is currently producing batteries for
electric vehicles.

In line with the envisioned joint venture with GM, Honda will
suspend production of fuel-cell car systems at a factory in Tochigi
Prefecture, eastern Japan.

As part of efforts to expand cooperation with companies in other
business sectors, Honda is considering teaming up with Google Inc. of
the United States in developing self-driving technology.

Japanese automakers are struggling to sell fuel-cell vehicles
due to their high cost and the slow development of required
infrastructure in the country, with Honda launching a
hydrogen-powered vehicle called the Clarity Fuel Cell last year to
challenge rival Toyota Motor Corp.'s Mirai released in 2014.

Around 100 Clarity Fuel Cell vehicles have been sold, while the
Mirai has seen sales of about 2,500 units in Japan, the United States
and Europe. (Jan. 30)