Sony and Honda have officially signed a joint venture agreement to establish a company to build electric cars together. The new company will be called “Sony Honda Mobility Inc.”, which gives Sony a leading position, especially compared to the established car manufacturer.
The company will also focus on “mobility services,” building on Sony’s January announcement of the formation of “Sony Mobility, Inc.”
Sony Honda Mobility Inc. will be formed this year and plans to begin selling both its first electric vehicle and “providing mobility services” in 2025.
Honda’s press release states:
The new company will aim to combine Honda’s cutting-edge environmental and safety technologies, mobility development capabilities, vehicle body construction technology and customer service management experience with Sony’s expertise in the development and application of imaging, sensing, telecommunications, networking and entertainment technologies to create a new generation of mobility and services for mobility that are closely aligned with users and the environment, and continue to develop in the future.
Essentially, Honda will bring its automotive expertise and Sony will bring its software and technology expertise.
We don’t yet have any further details about the car Honda and Sony will be collaborating on or what platform it will be built on. We don’t even know how it will be branded – will it be a “Sony Honda” or something more along the lines of “Honda, powered by Sony”?
In the recent past, Sony has made its EV ambitions increasingly clear in recent years, showing off its VISION-S concept EV at the last three CES conferences.
At each presentation of Sony’s concept car, the company has focused on its entertainment and software prowess to suggest that it would be able to offer better technology services (including autonomous driving) than traditional automakers. Initially, their concept seemed more like a vehicle to demonstrate this software and entertainment expertise, rather than an actual attempt to build an electric vehicle.
At the last show, it sounded like they would actually build the sedan – and an SUV cousin – as they said they were exploring “a commercial launch” of the vehicle and formed a new company, Sony Mobility, Inc to focus on their mobility and EV efforts.
But in February, Sony’s CFO stated, “We’re not going to start making batteries or vehicles ourselves,” and that the company would rather focus on finding partnerships.
Soon after, Sony and Honda signed a memorandum of understanding to signal their intention to work together.
Honda, like most other Japanese automakers, has been slow to develop electric vehicles. While they finally seem to be taking some steps under their new CEO and former R&D head Toshihiro Mibe, they’re still a fair ways behind.
They’ve announced that all new models will be electric by 2030… but only in China. In the US, Honda is still rambling, stating that demand for EVs is still not high enough — even though any new EV model is currently supply-, not demand-, constrained. Their first mass-market EV, the Prologue EV, won’t come to the US until 2024 and will be based on GM’s Ultium platform rather than a Honda-developed platform.
Our attitude towards this step is pretty much the same as it was a few months ago when the MoU was signed.
I was excited to see Sony step in with the VISION-S, and repeated showings made it seem like it could actually happen. But as we initially thought when this vehicle was first unveiled, it looks like they’ll be focusing on technology partnerships rather than putting the VISION-S on the road themselves.
As for the partnership here, we hope it can help get Honda going. Since Honda has been dragging their feet, it might help to have a partner to drag them along.
But Sony is another Japanese company, and Japanese companies are known for their conservative business practices. While Sony is a tech company and moving faster than many Japanese firms, there’s still a sense of traditionalism in the Japanese industry that seems to have kept them from embracing new ideas in the EV space. A recent report warned that this EV stall could have dire consequences for the Japanese economy.
But this Sony Honda Mobility joint venture signals an intention to leverage the strengths of two of Japan’s biggest companies (Honda 2nd, Sony 11th) in hopes they can catch up with the rest of the world in electric vehicles. We’d like to see the results before 2025, which is still a long way off, but at least it’s something.
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