Electronics giant Sony is teaming up with Japan’s third-largest automaker to develop and market new battery-electric vehicles, the two companies confirmed Friday.
The announcement comes two months after Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida revealed plans to get into the automotive market during a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
During the unveiling of the Vision-S concept vehicle, Yohsida said he thought his company was in a position to “redefine mobility.” He echoed that in a statement announcing the new partnership with Honda.
“In the joint venture, we would like to lead the mobility evolution by combining our technology and experience with Honda’s long experience in mobility development and vehicle body manufacturing technologies,” said Yoshida.
The new partners plan to have their first vehicle in production by 2025. They did not indicate whether it would be a version of the Vision-S show car.
Leveraging each other’s skills
During his January presentation, Yoshida said he planned to create a new company Sony Mobility. He offered few details about the timing and specifics other than to say there would be more to announce this year.
One of the key questions triggered by the announcement was whether Sony would set up its own vehicle unit including both product development and manufacturing. As other EV startups have shown, this can be a multi-billion dollar effort. Even with its deep pockets, that could pose challenges for Sony which has little experience in the automotive world other than providing in-car audio systems.
“Although Sony and Honda are companies that share many historical and cultural similarities, our areas of technological expertise are very different. Therefore, I believe this alliance which brings together the strengths of our two companies offers great possibilities for the future of mobility,” Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe said in a statement.
In January, Yoshida told his CES audience that Sony “is well-positioned as a creative entertainment company to redefine mobility.” And recent developments in the auto industry suggest he is on target.
Today’s automobiles are computers on wheels, and Sony has extensive experience with the sensors, computer chips and digital displays that are found on virtually every vehicle. That puts it in position to not only offer advanced safety technology but onboard infotainment systems.
During separate presentations during the past 10 days, the chief executives of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis each outlined the growth they expect in vehicle software, services and subscriptions. GM CEO Mary Barra pointed to company research estimating the typical new vehicle buyer is willing to spend $135 a month for such capabilities. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares forecast his company will generate revenues of around $25 billion annually by decade’s end.
“Through this alliance with Honda … we intend to build on our vision to ‘make the mobility space an emotional one,” Yoshida said.
A shift in focus for Honda
The tie-up with Sony is just the latest major partnership Honda has announced. It already has an assortment of deals in place with GM, including one that will yield a pair of battery-electric vehicles for the Japanese automaker. That will help it jump into the rapidly expanding market for BEVs while it is still working on long-range versions of its own.
Honda also has teamed up with GM on the development of fuel-cell technology. The U.S. automaker is focused on using hydrogen power in stationary systems, while also exploring applications such as railroad locomotives. Honda, however, is a big proponent of fuel-cell vehicles. But demand for models like its hydrogen-powered Clarity has been light. And, with regulators around the world pressing the industry to electrify, it has laid out plans to boost its battery-vehicle program.