Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said that new mobility technology will be the “megatrend” of the next decade, just as the advent of smartphones was over the last 10 years.
“Going forward, mobility will become increasingly be similar to the mobile sector, from the perspective of both technology and the business model,” Yoshida said.
The combination of the auto-tech heavyweights could be Japan’s answer to maintaining the country’s competitive edge against new digital-native entrants from Silicon Valley and China.
Honda will contribute its expertise in body manufacturing and after-sales service, while Sony chips in its knowhow in imaging, sensing, telecommunications, networking and entertainment technologies.
The new company will plan, design, develop and sell EVs but not operate an assembly plant. Honda will be responsible for manufacturing the first EV model, they said.
The vehicle will use a mobility service platform developed by Sony.
“Although Sony and Honda are companies that share many historical and cultural similarities, our areas of technological expertise are very different,” Mibe said in the joint statement.
“Therefore, I believe this alliance which brings together the strengths of our two companies offers great possibilities for the future of mobility,” he said.
The move comes as Honda tries to bolster its position in a rapidly changing automotive industry by dropping combustion and shifting to pure electric drivetrains by 2040.
Speaking in an interview with Automotive News late last year, Mibe said forming new partnerships, even with technology companies outside the auto sector, would be key to the transformation.
He echoed that spirit about Sony, saying the collaboration would be open to other partners.
“This joint venture is going to be very significant in the future,” Mibe said.
The companies did not talk about batteries or detail other technological specifications.
Meanwhile, Sony — maker of the PlayStation game console and guardian of a library of movies of music through its entertainment arm — has been eyeing its own entry into the auto field to offer its services to new customers. Sony unveiled its second concept vehicle, a crossover EV prototype called the Vision-S 02, in January at CES in Las Vegas to underscore its intention.
“We intend to build on our vision to ‘make the mobility space an emotional one,’ and contribute to the evolution of mobility centered around safety, entertainment and adaptability,” Yoshida said, hinting at Sony’s plant to leverage entertainment-on-the-go.
In some ways, Sony was the original mobile entertainment pioneer when it introduced the Walkman portable cassette player in 1979. Now, it sees driving as better than walking.
The new partnership comes as technology companies increasingly see the auto sector as a new frontier. In the U.S., Silicon Valley darling Apple has long been working on an auto program, while Waymo is focused on self-driving cars. Chinese tech giants such as Baidu and Tencent are wading into autos, and Taiwan’s Foxconn and South Korea’s LG Electronics are showing interest.
In January, Sony created a company called Sony Mobility Inc. to handle its dive into cars.
Sony’s auto gambit is expected to leverage its expertise in digital and software technology, while likely leaving the manufacturing of the car itself to an outside partner. It is a model often raised the best way for other technology companies, such as Apple, to crack the auto sector.
In January, Honda boss Mibe welcomed Sony into Japan’s auto industry speaking as vice chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. “You already see in Europe, the United States and China many new players coming into EV manufacturing. Sony is one of them,” Mibe said. “Having additional players in the industry brings about positive competition… A new entry like Sony will really revitalize the industry.”