A joint venture set up by Japan's Sony Group Corp. and Honda Motor is aiming to deliver its first electric vehicles (EV) by 2026 and will sell them online, starting in the United States and Japan.
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The new EV will also be priced at a premium, offering a new software system developed by Sony that would open the way to recurring revenue from entertainment and other services that would be billed monthly, the companies said.
The update from the joint venture, Sony Honda Mobility, is the first since the two companies launched the project in June.
Key details, including pricing, battery range and even the platform for the new vehicle have not been determined, but representatives of the new company detailed a vision for a vehicle that would function almost like a rolling smartphone.
Sony will provide the software system for the new car, from the onboard controllers to cloud-based services that will connect with entertainment and payment systems.
It will also provide sensors and other technology for a Level 3 autonomous drive system that will allow for drivers to pay more attention to the content and software services that will be offered.
In Level 3 systems, also known as limited self-driving automation, drivers can ride without watching the road or handling the wheel on highway driving but need to be ready to take back control.
Tesla, General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Mercedes Benz all offer some form of hands-free driving assist systems.
“As safe driving technology will continue to evolve and the amount of concentration required to drive will be reduced, we should consider new ways to enjoy and spend time in the cabin space as a whole,” said Izumi Kawanishi, the joint venture’s president and executive at Sony.
Honda will decide on the platform that the new vehicle will use and details like the battery supplier. The still-to-be named EV will likely be manufactured by Honda at one of its plants in Ohio.
Honda, like its bigger rival Toyota Motor, has been slow to shift its fleet to electric. It has also struggled over the years to make gains in the luxury vehicle market with its Acura brand.
Yasuhide Mizuno, the joint venture's chairman and chief executive, and a senior Honda executive, said the project was important for Honda to develop a "longer-term relationship" with its car buyers as the vehicle shifts to become more of a connected device.
Mizuno said Honda believed that 2025 would be a crucial year in the shift toward EVs in the U.S. market and that the joint-venture believed it had to hit that opening even though it means a compressed development cycle for the new EV.
The new EV will be delivered to the Japanese market in the second half of 2026. The two companies are considering a launch for Europe, but no plan has been set. Orders for the new EV should open in 2025, the companies said.