The two companies’ joint venture aim to have an EV ready for the North American market by 2026.
Sony and Honda’s joint mobility venture unveiled a new EV prototype called Afeela during Sony’s presentation at CES in Las Vegas Wednesday. The brand will appear on the joint venture’s first production electric car, set to go on sale in North America in 2026.
Much is still unknown about the new brand, but Sony Honda Mobility CEO Yasuhide Mizuno said the car would leverage Sony’s experience with AI, entertainment, virtual reality, and augmented reality to present a unique EV.
“Afeela represents our concept of an interactive relationship where people feel the sensation of interactive mobility and where mobility can detect and understand people and society by utilizing sensing and AI technologies,” Mizuno said.
Over 40 sensors, including cameras, radar, ultrasonic, and lidar, will be embedded all over the exterior of vehicle, enhancing its ability to detect objects and drive autonomously. According to Mizuno, Afeela will attempt to embody three main themes, including autonomy, augmentation, and affinity.
The prototype unveiled on stage looked little like the concept first revealed by Sony at CES three years ago. Instead, this was a sedan with a light bar across the front, a closed off grille, and a high-gloss black roof. Black hubcaps and a light accent above the wheel wells were some of the more interesting exterior features. Several observers commented that the Afeela prototype looked like a mashup between a Porsche 911 and the Lucid Air.
The new EV will be priced to compete with other premium automakers, like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo, and Audi. Sony has said it expects its software to offer subscription services, so vehicle owners will likely have to pay a monthly fee in order to access certain features.
It was three years ago when Sony stunned attendees at CES by rolling out a sleek concept sedan called the Vision-S. With its pillar-to-pillar infotainment screens and an emphasis on (what else?) music and entertainment, the Vision-S was supposed to showcase what it would look like if Sony actually made a car. Which it assured everyone it had no intention of doing.
Well, it turned out that wasn’t entirely true. In early 2022, news got out that Sony was creating a joint venture with Honda with the express purpose of mass producing and selling electric vehicles. The Sony-Honda cars will go into production at one of Honda’s 12 facilities in the US, though no details have been shared on planned volume. The EV will be sold first in the US in 2026, and then Japan and Europe at a later date. Preorders are said to open in 2025.
Among some of the ideas that have been floated for the Honda-Sony car was a fully integrated PS5 for gaming and entertainment. According to Yasuhide Mizuno, chair of Sony Honda Mobility and senior managing officer of Honda, the plan was to “develop a car as hardware that will cater to the entertainment and network we would like to offer,” he said in an interview late last year.
In other words, Sony sees cars — and EVs in particular — as a crucial platform for the future of its tech and entertainment products. But it’s not content to license its hardware and software to automakers, or design its operating system like Apple and Google. It wants a hand in the design and development process too. Making cars is incredibly risky and expensive, especially for a company that has never done it before. Just look at Dyson. Just because you make really great non-car products, doesn’t mean those same skills necessarily translate into the automotive space.
Of course, Honda is developing its own lineup of EVs, starting with the Prologue, which is being built in collaboration with General Motors. The Prologue, which is expected to go on sale in 2024, is Honda’s first long-range EV targeted at the North American market. It marks the beginning of a wave of 30 hybrid battery-electric fuel-cell vehicles that Honda says it will release by the end of the decade. Honda will use GM’s Ultium platform to power the Prologue as well as an unnamed 2024 Acura model based on its Precision concept released earlier this year.