Sony’s current favorite big tease is playing at being a carmaker, and today it announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with real automaker Honda to discuss and develop that idea further. The two companies jointly announced that they would officially be exploring their intent to build a joint venture sometime this year, which would be focused on development and sales of new electric vehicles, as well as develop and launch a new “mobility service platform” for use with the new vehicle.
Under the current design of what the new joint venture would look like, Sony would bring to bear its chops in “imaging, sensing, telecommunication, network, and entertainment technologies,” while Honda would provide… well the car stuff really. The “New Company” formed by the two would be behind everything from design and development to sales of the resulting new EVs, but Honda would manufacture the cars on their behalf. Sony will supply the new entity with a mobility service product for its use.
If all goes to plan (which is almost certainly subject to change given the early stage of these discussions) then the joint venture would start selling its first cars beginning in 2025.
Sony has now had at least three different splashy moments to show off its flirtations with being an automaker, each at the annual CES tech show. It surprised everyone by bringing a concept car called the Vision-S to the show in 2020, then it shared additional details in 2021 including videos of a working prototype driving on both track and public roads. Most recently, it unveiled a Vision-S SUV concept in addition to the original sedan, and said it would be launching a new company called Sony Mobility Inc. to focus on “exploring” commercialization of its own EVs.
The ‘mobility service’ piece of this is perhaps most interesting in the context of what Sony’s focus has been on with its own EV concepts. These feature dashboards festooned with display and emphasizing connectivity and entertainment for passengers on board. Sony obviously has success in these fields, but it’s also not known for its user and software interfaces (Sony camera and phone users will know what I’m talking about) so how that pans out is a big question mark.
Three successive splashy concept reveals at CES does not a car company make — particularly at a show known for being the biggest showcase of vaporware essentially ever. Similarly, an MOU is often little more than a formalized agreement for two big companies to think creatively together in earnest. But there’s an awful lot of smoke accumulating here, and at least this MOU has some defined timelines in the mix to watch out for in terms of when it could become more concrete.