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Honda Prelude Concept Debuts in Tokyo and Could Signal a Production EV or Hybrid

by | October 25, 2023

It’s been more than two decades since we last saw a new Honda Prelude roll into dealer showrooms. But while the automaker is officially calling the coupe debuting at the Japan Mobility Show a “concept,” there’s good reason to believe it’s a thinly disguised prototype, with a production Honda Prelude to follow in electrified form.

Mibe at Prelude debut JMS

Honda CEO Toshihiro Mine said the new Prelude Concept is, if nothing else, a prelude of designs to come.


Is the Honda Prelude set to make its return after a nearly 23-year absence? Depends on whom you ask. But, based on what the automaker debuted at the Japan Mobility Show, there’s good reason to believe it’s in the works – and in electrified form.

Honda’s global President Toshihiro Mibe certainly did little to dissuade that sort of thinking during the automaker’s Thursday news conference.

“This model will become the prelude for our future models, which will inherit the ‘joy of driving’ into the full-fledged electrified future and embody Honda’s unalterable sports mindset,” said Mibe. “The Prelude Concept is a specialty sports model that will offer [an] exhilarating experience that makes you want to keep going forever and extraordinary excitement you never felt before.”

Honda Prelude concept front 3-4 at JMS

The last new Honda Prelude in dealer showrooms came in 2001.

Past as Prelude

First introduced in 1978, Prelude was one of Honda’s sportiest models. But it lost momentum in its later years, along with coupes, in general, the third-largest Japanese automaker pulling the two-door model out of production in 2001.

The concept vehicle on display in Japan picks up on the wide, low shape of the last-generation Prelude, with an sweeping roofline that flows out of its steeply raked windshield.

What was notably missing from the new Prelude concept was any form of exhaust pipe. The show car is all-electric, though there’s been mixed speculation from media and analysts, some expecting that the Honda Prelude would return as an all-electric coupe if put into production, others thinking it would more likely come back as a hybrid.

Electrified. But in what form?

What we do know is that Honda has been adding gas-electric drivetrains — whether as standard or optional hardware — on more and more of its models.

Honda Prelude concept nose best JMS

The concept is all-electric, but if it were to return as the Prelude it’s unclear if it will be electric or electrified.

CEO Mibe still sees hybrids and plug-in hybrids – as well as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles – having a place in Honda’s future portfolio. But he has quickly moved to expand the line-up of all-electric models compared to his more EV-phobic predecessor.

Honda, for the moment, has no all-electric models in its U.S. lineup. The first, dubbed Prologue, is only set to debut next year, quickly followed by the more upscale Acura ZDX.

Honda and GM part ways

Both of those are based on the Ultium technology developed by American ally General Motors. But the two manufacturers announced Wednesday they’ve decided to end another joint program aimed at developing entry-level EVs — with pricing targeted at under $30,000.

No explanation was offered but several analysts told Headlight.News on background they believe GM prefers to focus on the larger and more expensive EVs that it believes American consumers would embrace. Honda sees opportunities for small, lower-cost models for the Japanese, European and Chinese markets.

Honda Prelude concept nose at JMS

The Prelude enjoys a loyal and large fan base, who would be pleased to see it return.

The two automakers intend to move forward on several other partnerships, including plans to launch the Cruise LLC ride-sharing service to Tokyo in 2026, with the San Francisco-based startups new Origin robocabs.

What’s next?

Honda has a long tradition of rolling out thinly disguised concepts, only to return soon afterwards with a production model.

If that’s the case with the Prelude shown in Tokyo this week we could see a new generation of Prelude models in the relatively near future.


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