Two big names in Japanese electronics and automotive are joining forces to produce an electric vehicle together.
Sony Group Corp. and Honda Motor Co. have agreed to form a joint venture this year to begin selling an electric vehicle by 2025, the two parties announced on Friday.
The plan is to bring together Honda’s expertise in mobility development, technology and sales with Sony’s expertise in imaging, telecommunications, networking and entertainment.
A union of traditionally different manufacturing enterprises is rare in Japan. But it makes sense in the age of electric vehicles, which lack gasoline engines and have complicated electronics.
Every automaker in the world has developed zero-emission electric vehicles, as concerns about pollution and climate change grow. But they face fierce competition from newcomers like Tesla.
The joint venture will develop and engineer the product, but will use Honda’s plant for manufacturing. Sony, which makes the PlayStation video game console and owns film and music companies, will develop the mobility services platform.
Honda makes the CR-V sport utility vehicle and the Clarity plug-in hybrid and already has its own electric vehicle program, partnering with General Motors to share platforms for electric vehicles in North America.
The joint venture with Sony will be separated, intended to produce unexpected value “in a chemical reaction”, Honda chief executive Toshihiro Mibe said.
“We’re so used to thinking in the automotive category that it’s hard to get out of that zone,” Mibe told reporters, while stressing that Honda will continue its own electric vehicle program.
Sony showed off a concept electric car at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas two years ago. He was eager to find an automotive partner, Sony Group Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida said.
The two executives, appearing together at a hastily called press conference in Tokyo, did not rule out a future stock market listing of the joint venture.
Shares of both companies fell on Friday, with Honda down 4.5% and Sony down 3.2%.
Sony and Honda had humble beginnings in the 1940s, when Japan was rebuilding from the ashes of World War II. Both had charismatic founders.
Honda was founded by Soichiro Honda, an engineer, industrialist and renowned maverick. He started out helping out in his father’s bike repair shop and eventually made Honda a global powerhouse. He is often quoted as saying things like: a degree is worthless, learn to work with your hands, or work for yourself and not for a company.
Sony was founded by Akio Morita, who co-wrote “The Japan Who Can Say No”, which advocates a more assertive and proud Japan, and Masaru Ibuka.
Morita had a good knowledge of the market while Ibuka was known for product development. In the 1970s, when Sony was developing the Walkman portable audio player, some engineers were skeptical. But Morita insisted that people would want to listen to music on the go.
“Although Sony and Honda are companies that share many historical and cultural similarities, our areas of technology expertise are very different,” Mibe said.
“I believe that this alliance that brings together the strengths of our two companies offers great possibilities for the future of mobility.”
Sony Group Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida said Ibuka respected and learned a lot from Honda.
“Engagement at the top is important,” Yoshida said. “We are committed to meeting this challenge together.”