Honda Motor Co. and Japanese electronics firm Sony Group Corp. announced the formation of a 50/50 joint venture Thursday that will build “high-value-added electric vehicles,” as well as provide mobility services.
The new venture, named Sony Honda Mobility Inc., will be headquartered in Tokyo, and have ¥10 billion (or $75,393,500) in capital.
The company plans to have EV sales and mobility services start in 2025, pending regulatory approval. The new partnership finalizes a partnership first announced in March.
“We are very pleased to have signed a joint venture agreement with Sony, which has strengths in advanced digital technology and shares our desire to take on new challenges,” said Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe.
The new company’s officers
Yasuhide Mizuno, currently Senior Managing Officer at Honda, will be the chairman and CEO of the new company. Mizuno was formerly Honda’s Chief Officer for Automobile Operations, and now leads the Honda-Sony JV Prep Office. Shinji Aoyama, Honda’s Chief Officer, Business Development Operations and Corporate Brand Officer will replace Mizuno as Chief Officer for Automobile Operations while retaining his other roles.
“By bringing together the expertise of both companies, we aim to lead the way in a new era,” Mizuno said.
Izumi Kawanishi, a Sony executive vice president in charge of Sony’s AI Robotics Business, will be its president and COO, a clue that automated driving might be a key part of the new firm’s future products. Honda’s Mibe stoked such speculation, saying in a statement that, “we will strive to create new value through the fusion brought about by the combination of our different industries.”
Given that Honda invested $2 billion in Cruise LLC, their interest in automated diving comes as no surprise. But there are other reasons for the tie-up.
Kenichiro Yoshida, chairman, president and CEO of Sony Group Corp., said, “We aim to contribute to the evolution of mobility by combining Honda’s cutting-edge environmental and safety technologies, mobility development capabilities, vehicle body manufacturing technology, and after-sales service management experience with our expertise in imaging, sensing, telecommunication, network and entertainment technologies.”
Given that automobiles have become mobile computers, Sony’s extensive experience with sensors, computer chips and digital displays found on every new vehicle should prove advantageous. They could also be called upon to improve Honda’s clunky infotainment systems.
Another joint venture for Honda
For Mibe, who became Honda CEO in 2021, the path to the future lies in partnerships, not just with Sony, but also with General Motors, relying on the American automaker to bring its new Prologue EV to market for 2024.
It’s one of two BEVs that will use GM’s new “Ultium” batteries and skateboard platform, with a second model to be sold as an Acura. For the Japan’s third-largest automaker, use of GM’s “Ultium” platform is a holding action until it releases its own EVs later in the decade based on its own corporate software-defined EV platform, dubbed e:Architecture.
Honda’s push to electrification is a decadelong, ¥5 trillion-yen ($37.16 billion) plan to introduce 30 BEVs worldwide, with planned annual production capacity for 2 million units, with 800,000 electric vehicles planned for North America by 2030. The company expects EVs to generate 40% of its North American sales by 2030, 80% by 2035, and 100% by the end of the next decade.
It’s not Honda’s only association with GM. Like the U.S. automaker, Honda is a proponent of fuel-cell technology, and has worked with GM on its development. Honda is a big proponent of fuel-cell vehicles, something GM has long experimented with. But demand for its hydrogen-powered Clarity has been so minimal, the automaker ended its production last year. Whether the company ahs more planned remains to be seen. Toyota continues to produce the hydrogen-powered Mirai, but the lack of infrastructure is weakening demand. That, as well as government demands to electrify vehicles at the expense of investment in fuel cells, has led Honda to boost its battery-electric vehicle program.