Honda's new strategy calls for forging loose partnerships to cover its weak spots, which include a cross-section of next-generation technologies with which Honda suddenly finds itself needing aid, from green drivetrains and artificial intelligence to self-driving cars.
"We recognize the need for a fundamental transformation," CEO Takahiro Hachigo says of the carmaker's pivot. "We will not do everything on our own."
Honda's challenge will be protecting its independence and identity as it leans more on others.
The shift kicked off this year, with Honda announcing it would partner with Hitachi Automotive Systems to produce and sell electric motors for a future wave of electric vehicles. It was a sign of changing times for a company whose engineers once pointed with pride to the "Motor" in the company's name and joked they would always build their own.
That was followed by a joint venture with General Motors to build costly hydrogen fuel cell stacks for next-generation green vehicles at a factory in Michigan.
On the software side, Honda set up a Silicon Valley-inspired artificial intelligence hothouse dubbed the Honda R&D Innovation Lab Tokyo. It is housed in a downtown Tokyo skyscraper. To lead it, Honda again sought outside expertise in Edward Feigenbaum, a Stanford University computer whiz and former chief scientist for the U.S. Air Force.
But Honda hasn't abandoned its independent streak.
Even as it reaches out, it is investing more in its own high-tech know-how.
In April, it formed an r&d unit to tackle the next generation of software-heavy technologies. Dubbed R&D Center X, it focuses on robotics, mobility systems and energy management. Honda wants its work reflected in cars by around 2020.
And in June, the longtime EV skeptic revealed it had been quietly working on a range of electric vehicles under a new EV development division created in virtual secrecy in October 2016. It is working on EVs for China, Europe and beyond. The first go on sale next year.