Sony Honda Mobility, a joint venture teaming the electronics giant and the third-largest Japanese automaker, will launch production of its first battery-electric vehicle in 2025 under the brand name Afeela.
The company plans to begin taking orders sometime during the first half of that year, said Sony Honda Mobility CEO Yasuhide Mizuno during a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Wednesday evening. The high-tech vehicle is expected to reach U.S. showrooms in the spring of 2026.
“We’re transforming mobility into a moving entertainment space,” Mizuno told a standing-room-only crowd gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“Thinking out of the box”
Sony has been hinting of plans to get into the automotive space for several years, but it announced plans to do so in partnership with Honda last March. The electronics and infotainment giant has taken a lead role in the project, with Honda largely focused on some elements of vehicle engineering and the eventual vehicle production.
Notably, no one from the automaker participated in the Wednesday night news event, even while Sony Chairman, President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida brought officials from a variety of other partners, such as Qualcomm and Epic Games onto the stage. That underscored the direction the joint venture is taking.
The partners, said Mizuno, will be “thinking out of the box” in order to redefine tomorrow’s high-tech vehicles.
Sensors, safety gear and 5G connectivity
It’s not clear whether the first product to wear the Afeela badge will be the jellybean-shaped prototype that rolled onto the CES stage. Several analysts attending the event suggested it’s more likely Afeela will focus on a crossover-utility vehicle, in line with current market trends.
But whatever form the eventual product takes, it will be loaded with a wide range of technologies, including 45 different cameras, radar, lidar and other sensors, Mizuno noted. Afeela wants to offer an advanced levels of vehicle safety, he added.
It’s also expected to push the boundaries of autonomous driving. That would suggest Level 3 technology which would allow a motorist to go hands-free under many conditions, though the driver would still be required to be at the ready to retake control quickly in an emergency.
Afeela vehicles will feature the latest in 5G connectivity. That will allow the company to use smartphone-style over-the-air updates to revise software, handle many recalls remotely, and even offer new features and services.
The software-defined vehicle
The vehicles also will have video displays positioned in front of all occupants. That should come as no surprise.
With Sony operating one of the world’s biggest entertainment businesses — everything from video games to music, film and video — the automaker sees a clear synergy here, Mizuno suggesting the plan is to deliver “a new-level in-vehicle experience.”
Sony is by no means the only player that sees tremendous opportunities to profit from what has come to be called the “software-defined vehicle.”
Potentially huge new revenue opportunities
General Motors CEO Mary Barra has forecast her company could generate as much as $135 a month from vehicle owners for both connected vehicle hardware and services. Carlos Tavares, the CEO of Stellantis, has estimated his company could see annual revenues of $20 billion or more from software-defined vehicles.
A number of manufacturers, including BMW, are showing off their own connected car technologies at CES 2023, a number of them outlining visions similar to the one presented by Sony Honda Mobility.
Not everyone is quite so confident. A new consumer study by consultancy Deloitte warns that motorists are wary about signing up for ongoing subscription services.
There were no details about the drivetrain technology that Afeela will use, though the partners previously emphasized that all its vehicles will be battery-electric.
Sony Honda officials also were mum about pricing for the upcoming Afeela line. But there is little doubt that all the technology planned for the vehicle will push the price up well beyond that of less sophisticated products.
With the project still more than two years away from production, it is likely to be some time before full details are released.