So Sony has just pulled a major donut – finally coming full circle. Sony Group’s CEO stood alongside Honda Motor’s CEO as the two companies announced that they were forming a joint venture with automotive manufacturing powerhouse Honda agreeing to partner with the sensor and mobile entertainment electronics king Sony to actually manufacture electric vehicles (EVs) – or what we’ve known up to this point as the Sony Vision-S vehicles. At last, our trip down the long and winding (and confusing) road has arrived at a final destination.
And with this announcement, we now have tech’s newest power couple…
See more on the Sony & Honda joint venture
It’s been quite a ride lately with Sony. The company’s peek-a-boo marketing approach on its thrust into mobility has been quite confusing – both to the media and to the market. Starting all the way back at CES 2020, the company, with little explanation, showed a physical vehicle, called the Vision-S, and spoke about mobility trends. I had assumed it was some type of vehicle they could use to test their various sensors for self-driving or autonomous vehicles. But their plans clearly went further than that.
Sony: First One, Then Two Vehicles in Vision-S
Then at the virtual CES 2021, we saw it again. Finally, in what I said was one of the top two stories of CES 2022, Sony showed two Sony vehicles, the Vision-S 01 car and Vision-S 02 SUV. They also surprised everyone by formally announcing a new, separate division called Sony Mobility, Inc., saying that mobility was the next megatrend. Sony was entering the EV (electric vehicle) market. Wow.
But only a month after this perplexing announcement, things seemed to be further muddied when in a presentation on the company’s financial results, the CFO said the company will NOT be making a car. His quote is as follows…
We will not start making batteries or vehicles ourselves. We take a stance of ‘asset-light’ and will proceed with electric vehicle investment on the premise that we form partnerships.Sony Chief Financial Officer Hiroki Totoki in a presentation last month
Coming in 2025
Now the air is cleared as Sony Group CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and Honda Motor CEO Toshihiro Mibe shared a stage earlier this month to announce that the two partners were forming a joint venture to build cars. Specifically, they will build EVs (electric vehicles), with the first production run to hit sometime in 2025.
The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch the joint venture. Mibe told the attending media that this joint venture will be an “open” partnership – suggesting other entities may join in the partnership as well. He also suggested that there was a possibility that the partnership will expand into other industries, although he offered no specific examples of which other industries would be logical to be included.
Honda will Build the Cars, Sony will Stuff it with Technology
The way the deal is presently structured seems quite straightforward. Honda will manufacture the vehicles and provide after-sales support. Sony will be tasked with developing the entertainment, network, and other mobility capabilities, according to a report by the Nikkei. And the joint venture will be in charge of designing, developing, and selling the vehicles.
At this point, they are not suggesting these will be autonomous vehicles, but it is known that Sony is a leading sensor provider for self-driving vehicles. Initially, the partnership is only talking about EVs.
Megatrend for the Next Decade: Mobility
Echoing comments he made at the 2022 CES, Sony’s CEO said that for the next decade, mobility will be the “megatrend.” With that in mind, he said it is important for Sony to enter the business, harnessing its strengths in image sensors, networks, and entertainment services.
Ever since Sony showed its first concept car at the 2020 CES, Yoshida says it has been looking for a partner to help it “learn about mobility,” he told the Nikkei. Plans between Sony and Honda solidified at the end of 2021.
Automobile Industry at a ‘Tipping Point’
Honda’s CEO Mibe said that the automobile industry is at a tipping point and is seeing traditional carmakers entering the EV segment, a segment in which many new entrants and startups are all vying for a share of the market. Massive tech companies like Google parent Alphabet have entered the business, as have startups like Rivian…and many of these are rapidly catching up with the traditional carmakers.
We don’t sit tight in face of this change, but we want to be a leading player who can proactively make a change. We can share our ambitious vision toward future mobility with Sony.Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe
The Partners Share Some Common Traits
Interestingly the two CEOs pointed out to the press that both companies share some common traits, such as originality and a hunger for innovation and exploration. It is perhaps because of these common traits that a friendship had previously developed between their founders, as both Soichiro Honda and Masaru Ibuka were good friends.
“We can overcome difficulties of tie-ups between different industries and offer new value,” Mibe told the Nikkei.
Honda told the press that they plan to independently develop EVs outside the scope of this joint venture. They also do not plan on selling cars developed for the joint venture under the Honda brand. However, he did put a marker down, saying that technologies developed for the joint venture will be adopted in Honda vehicles as well.
An ‘Open’ Marriage, The Partners Can Fool Around with Others
For its side, Sony noted that they expect to provide its various services and platforms for other carmakers outside of the JV. So, like an open marriage, both partners can fool around outside of the JV.
So we now know much more of what these two companies are planning. However, there are two key pieces of information that we still don’t know: 1) What is the name of the JV company?; and 2) What brand name will be on the cars produced by the JV?
The Partners Have No Answer for That
The partners had no answer for that. But they did mention that it is a distinct possibility that at some point the JV will go public. No specifics were given of when or how that will happen.
Learn more about Honda Motor by visiting: global.honda
See all that Sony has to offer at: sony.com.