Kenichiro Yoshida presents the Sony Vision-S electric concept in Las Vegas in 2020.
In early 2020, Sony Group Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida took the centre stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — the tech industry’s important annual event — and introduced a once-in-a-decade pivot: the Japanese electronics maker was becoming a member of the electric automobile race.
As Yoshida wrapped up his 30-minute presentation, the lighting on the stage dimmed and a sparkling grille emerged from the shadows. The CEO raised his hands as a sleek, Sony-branded vehicle rolled onto the stage. Like mobile phones in the course of the past decade, “the subsequent megatrend will be mobility,” Sony’s leader declared.
With Yoshida’s pronouncement, the 76-year-old Japanese organization joined a developing roster of technology giants plotting their foray into the car industry. As automobiles grow to be electric, autonomous, gadget-stocked, and web-connected, the movement is luring a big range of latest players — most notoriously Apple Inc. with its secretive Apple Car — all betting they have the technology necessary to disrupt the $3 trillion market.
While Big Tech’s jostling has in large part been downplayed through many incumbent carmakers, the push through Yoshida, 62, won him an unlikely fan back in Japan: Toshihiro Mibe, who at the time was conducting research and development at Honda Motor Co. Of all Japan’s carmakers, Honda had thrown itself most aggressively into EVs and concentrated on a full phase-out of combustion-engine automobile sales by 2040.
From early on, Honda noticed the capacity for collaboration with Sony with its consumer electronics, autonomous riding sensors and software program as a way to distinguish new models and add value to the low-margin business of creating cars.
Behind the scenes, Mibe had spent years courting Sony’s pinnacle management, searching to sell them on his vision of the companies’ capacity synergies, people familiar with the executive’s approach stated. When Mibe, 60, became Honda’s CEO final year, those overtures took on new weight.
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After some of the meetings between people starting from the companies’ top executives to engineers, plans for a joint venture started to solidify by the end of 2021, stated the people, who requested not to be recognized because the information aren’t public. That culminated in the unveiling of plans to create a brand new organization to broaden and promote next-generation EVs. Two iconic companies, symbols of Japan’s monetary restoration from the ruins of war, were becoming a member of the forces.
“Companies from absolutely unique industries have unique cultures and sources of value,” Mibe stated, speaking about Honda’s partnership with Sony in an interview in April. “There was this concept that we may want to create a chemical reaction together. This was a captivating concept, and I met with President Yoshida and stated, ‘let’s do this.’”
For Honda, Mibe’s technique makes sense. Over the past few years, Tesla Inc., with its independent driving functions and capacity to enhance vehicle performance via over-the-air updates just like an iPhone, has highlighted the knowledge gap in terms of the software powering the subsequent era of cars.