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Sony Honda Mobility Is the Wild Card in Honda’s EV Future

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Image for article titled Sony Honda Mobility Is the Wild Card in Honda's EV Future

Image: Sony

Sony Honda Mobility, the partnership between the like-minded tech and automotive giants to commercialize Sony’s Vision-S and Vision-S 02 concepts, is moving fast. The two firms joined forces in March, and in June they provided an update that they’d be seeking to create a new, standalone brand. On Thursday at a joint press conference, they announced that their vehicles will be built at an unnamed Honda facility in the United States, and that they’d be sold in North America and Japan in 2026.

Steve DaSilva actually touched on this news in The Morning Shift earlier today, but I think it deserves further discussion, because this is a weird and cool thing that Sony and Honda are doing together. Remember: this journey started in 2020, when Sony decided to surprise everyone at the Consumer Electronic Show with a fully functional EV — literally two months before the whole world ground to a halt, no less. The Vision-S featured software Sony designed itself, used Sony in-car entertainment and safety-related components, and was built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.

Image for article titled Sony Honda Mobility Is the Wild Card in Honda's EV Future

Image: Sony

Over the next year and a half, Sony kept refining and testing the Vision-S, and earlier this year unveiled the Vision-S 02, an SUV. For a while it publicly flirted with the idea of producing these cars for purchase but made no commitments, while doing all the iterative development work typically done only for cars intended for mass consumption. Then it announced that partnership with Honda (which I scoped more than a year in advance, if I may say so), and here we are.

Today’s news comes during a big week for Honda. Last Thursday, the company unveiled the production-intent Prologue electric SUV, built with GM and due in 2024. Then, two days ago, it announced a $3.5-billion joint investment with battery supplier LG for a new plant based in Fayette County, Ohio, which is pegged to start activity in 2025. 2026 is when we are due to see Honda and Acura EVs incorporating the company’s own e:Architecture platform; as we now know, it’s also when we’ll see Sony Honda models, too.

The Sony Vision-S 02, at left, next to the original Vision-S concept.

The Sony Vision-S 02, at left, next to the original Vision-S concept.
Image: Sony

What’s interesting about Sony Honda’s plan is that it places North America front and center — both in terms of manufacturing and marketing. Sony Honda models will be built here and sold here, but also shipped to Japan for sale in their domestic market, which is pretty unprecedented as Automotive News points out:

“The reason we chose North America is because it is more advanced,” Yasuhide Mizuno, CEO of the new joint venture company, said while announced the timeline at a Thursday briefing.

“I think North America is a market with a lot of purchasing power,” he said. “Electrification varies from state to state, but it is important for us to release our product in markets like California.”

Sony Honda Mobility is not ruling out production in Japan someday. But for now, North America will be the main production and sales base. European sales are also under consideration.

Deliveries in Honda Motor Co.’s home market will begin in the second half of the 2026, making the new EV a rare American-made export shipped to Japan, by a Japanese brand no less.

Sony Honda Mobility will start taking orders for the new car in the first half of 2025.

Mizuno, the brand’s CEO, also described its future products as “high value-added,” and said that “it’s not like we’re looking at mass production,” equating the forthcoming models to the Level 3 semi-autonomous Honda Legend offered in Japan. So while Sony Honda very much intends to sell its wares to consumers, it’s unclear how many units it hopes to shift. Expect the company to lean on lots of software-based subscriptions to make money on the back end, because that is the way of the world. From Nikkei Asia:

Sony will develop the in-vehicle software and entertainment technologies, while Honda will take on the task of building the car itself and developing safety technologies.

Asked about its strategy in relation to competitors like Tesla, Kawanishi stressed that the company “must win” if it is to enter the business.

“Until now, cars competed on manufacturer elements” like driving performance and safety, he said. Such factors would continue to be important, but the company hoped to add value by combining them with software technologies and to “compete in these areas.”

All that said, I’m wondering aloud now if Sony Honda Mobility will serve a greater role in Honda’s global EV scheme than any of us initially realized. Production-spec versions of the Vision-S and Vision-S 02 could serve as Honda’s answer to the likes of Tesla at the flagship level, while core Honda nameplates like the Prologue serve as volume sellers. In such a scenario, Sony Honda could also very well step on Acura’s toes here in North America to some degree, which may create headaches for the American Honda marketing team. It’ll be very interesting to watch how Honda navigates all this over the next few years.

The interior of the Vision-S 02.

The interior of the Vision-S 02.
Image: Sony

What we know now is that Sony Honda will be courting a dealer-less, online-sales mode, which appears to fit the brand. As fatigued as I am hearing PR folk speak wistfully about the desire to be “agile and dynamic, like a startup,” this joint venture looks to give Honda exactly that — a place to experiment — and Sony a foot through the door to the wide world of automaking. Who’s to say how well it’ll work out for either of them, but I’m very curious to find out.

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