Honda Motor Co. set what it called a challenging target for all of its sales to be electric vehicles by 2040 as it tries to keep up with the global EV race and revive profits under the new leadership of Toshihiro Mibe.

The Japanese company also said it will invest about 5 trillion yen (US$46 billion) in research and development over the next six years, “regardless of fluctuations in our sales revenue.”

Automakers around the globe are rushing into the EV sector as the industry shifts to electrification and self-driving cars. Among them, Jaguar Land Rover has vowed to go fully electric by 2025, and Volvo by 2030. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46 per cent by 2030 from 2013 ahead of the global climate summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

“It will be an uphill struggle,” Mibe said at a news briefing Friday, noting that Honda’s EV sales are less than 1 per cent of its total in Japan. “It’ll be about how early we can build a structure that lets us make profits.”

Honda’s new goals include EVs accounting for 40 per cent of sales in North America and China by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2035. It has a 20 per cent goal for Japan by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2035. Japan’s target is different because it is a huge consumer of hybrids, Mibe said. The carmaker wants to achieve an operating profit margin of 7 per cent even as it shifts to EVs, he said.

Toyota Motor Corp. has been able to assuage investors’ concerns on EVs with the introduction of its “bZ4X,” but Honda may not be able to do so just by declaring targets, said Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “I wish they had more concrete plans,” he said.