Sony and Honda plan to use music, movies and the PlayStation 5 to take on Tesla and the rest of the car industry by developing an electric car based on a premium entertainment experience.
The heads of Sony Honda Mobility, which was founded in September and has yet to choose a brand, told the Financial Times that the company plans to gain an edge over rivals by leveraging Sony’s strong position in the global entertainment industry.
“Sony has content, services and entertainment technologies that move people. We’re adapting these elements to mobility, and that’s our strength against Tesla,” said chairman Izumi Kawanishi, who has led Sony’s robotics AI business.
“Tesla does not provide content services,” he said, adding that integrating the PlayStation 5 platform into its cars was “technologically feasible.”
Yasuhide Mizuno, president of the joint venture and who was in charge of Honda’s auto division, said the company is even adjusting its car production process to put content first.
Instead of importing software after a car is produced, “we will develop a car as hardware to serve the entertainment and network that we would like to offer,” Mizuno said. He said the company plans to launch its first electric vehicle model in North America by 2025.
The consortium leaders’ comments show how the companies are working to adapt to changing consumer preferences in cars.
In addition to trying to mount an entertainment-based challenge to Tesla, the Sony-Honda car will aim to compete with similar software-focused vehicles produced by Google and Apple.
But Kawanishi said the joint venture will also focus on perfecting a fully autonomous car — a goal that some mobility companies, including Uber and Google, have either abandoned or pushed back significantly as challenges and costs mount.
Argo AI, a self-driving vehicle group jointly backed by Ford and Volkswagen, announced last month that it would cease operations, saying profitability was “far away”.
“To enjoy the space in your car, you have to make it a space where you don’t have to drive. The solution for this is autonomous driving,” said Kawanishi, an engineer who has developed the PlayStation 3 and the Aibo robot dog at Sony.
“Autonomous driving will have to evolve significantly from its current level to get to this point, and it will take time for that to happen,” he added, saying the company eventually aimed for full driverless autonomy.
Some analysts believe the Sony-Honda joint venture’s grand ambitions mask a simpler set of business goals: to use the car as a showcase for technologies and software platforms that other global automakers might want to install in their vehicles.
For Sony, “part of the goal is to sell more components, including sensors, to consolidate the automotive consumer electronics industry,” said CLSA analyst Christopher Richter.
“Tesla was not able to fully achieve this and the JV did it much faster than Apple [EV] Project Titan, which is still languishing somewhere.”
The electronics group wants to show what it is capable of developing a small-scale premium brand with Honda, Richter added.