Back in March, Sony and Honda jointly announced an initiative to come together for the “development and sales of high value-added battery electric vehicles.” This company doesn’t yet have a name, but according to Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, both parties have agreed it should stand on its own. From Nikkei Asia, which recently sat down with the tech giant’s chief executive:
“We shared the view that it is better to make the joint venture independent, in the long run, rather than putting it under Sony or Honda,” Sony Chairman, President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told Nikkei in an interview Monday. When asked about the possibility of an initial public offering for the venture, or selling a stake to other companies, he said, “That’s a possibility.”
Sony and Honda plan to form a joint venture by the end of this year with the aim of marketing their first EVs in 2025. Sony will develop the software and entertainment content, such as movies and music, available in the car, while Honda will provide the hardware and safety features for the vehicle itself.
Your guess is as good as mine what this company will be called. I don’t ask for much; I just hope it’s better than Stellantis. I have faith that it will be, because Sony and Honda historically have demonstrated talents for naming things.
Branding aside, this is a match made in heaven. Not because both brands’ logos incorporate wide serif fonts though, consequently, I think that likeness actually tells you a lot about why they’re such a great pair and enjoy similar reputations in their respective industries.
In the realm of consumer electronics, Sony is a company that has always marketed products it believed in, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the public couldn’t care less. For example, did you know Sony still makes smartphones? Every couple of years, there’s a report that the division is on life support, but it keeps trucking on. I actually owned one, the Xperia Z3 Compact. It was great because it didn’t look stupid and had a lot of practical benefits at the time compared to contemporary models, like above-average battery life, water resistance (back when most phones didn’t have that), a very good camera and a comfortable, charming design made to be easily used with one hand.
Sony is a singular entity in the tech space; that’s why former Apple industrial designer Jony Ive once mocked up a prototype iPhone with overt and deliberate Walkman influence. And wouldn’t you know Sony still makes Walkmans! Here’s one that costs $US3,200 ($4,442). I know about it because my audiophile friend and colleague José Rodríguez sends me nightly texts updating me on the latest kidney-to-Walkman exchange rate.
While Samsung spends hundreds of millions on research and development in the belief that eliminating screen bezels or giving your phone’s camera a seventh lens will change your life, and Apple takes ports you need away from you, Sony builds things designed to serve a purpose, not merely look like they do. Just like Honda.
OK, in fairness, Honda has been getting away from that a little as of late, given the outgoing Civic Type-R’s desperation to be noticed and the Ridgeline Sport HPD with extra decals for improved off-road performance. But in its heyday, Honda was absolutely the Sony of automakers. A ’98 Civic hatch recently appeared on Bring a Trailer and went for $US8,600 ($11,939). There was nothing special about that car, but it is so classic Honda: sensible, quietly elegant and refreshingly devoid of pretense. That’s the company Honda can still be when it wants to, as cars like the new Civic Si remind us. And much like Sony, Honda is not above trotting out a vanity project of dubious relevance every now and again.
But, as José pointed out when he first reported on this union of Japanese industry titans, Honda needs help. It was uncharacteristically late to the EV game, despite being among the first to hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell tech. There are politics that may explain that second point, but Honda isn’t waiting around anymore; it’s working with General Motors to deliver an electric SUV for North America by 2024 as a Band Aid, while it gets cracking on its own proprietary platform. Sony’s no stranger to the work involved, which is why it’s a better dancing partner for Honda than most names in consumer tech.
Maybe it’ll be the Vision-S; maybe it’ll be a mostly Honda-engineered product embedded with Sony sensors and services. Of course I really hope it’s the Vision-S, because that car is beautiful. But whatever outcome this collaboration produces, it seems like one that should’ve happened at least a decade ago. Yoshida says he hopes he’ll be able to share more details on it “in the near future.”