Sony tech will help Honda take on Tesla – Orange County Register

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In early 2020, Sony Group Corp. CEO Kenichiro Yoshida took the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – the tech industry’s premier annual event – and announced a once-in-a-decade pivot: the maker of Japanese electronics joined the race for electric vehicles.

With Yoshida’s declaration, the 76-year-old Japanese company has joined a growing list of tech giants preparing their foray into the automotive industry. As vehicles become electric, self-driving, gadget-filled and web-connected, the movement is attracting a wide array of new players – most notoriously Apple Inc. with its secret Apple Car – all betting they have the technologies needed to disrupt the $3 trillion market. .

While Big Tech’s stampede has been largely downplayed by many incumbent automakers, 62-year-old Yoshida’s push has earned him an unlikely fan in Japan: Toshihiro Mibe, who at the time headed research and development at Honda Motor Co.

Of all Japanese automakers, Honda has moved into electric vehicles most aggressively, aiming for a complete elimination of sales of combustion engine vehicles by 2040. From the start, Honda saw potential for collaboration with Sony with its consumer electronics, autonomous driving sensors and software. as a way to differentiate new models and add value to the low-margin car manufacturing business.

“Companies in completely different industries have different cultures and different sources of value,” Mibe said of Honda’s partnership with Sony in an April interview. “There was this idea that we could create a chemical reaction together. It was a fascinating concept, and I met President Yoshida and said, “Let’s do it.”

For Honda, Mibe’s approach makes sense. Over the past few years, Tesla Inc., with its self-driving features and ability to improve car performance via over-the-air updates much like an iPhone, has exposed the knowledge gap in of software powering the next generation of cars. .

Sony envisions the cars will be cloud-connected and equipped with internal sensors that will eventually enable level four autonomous driving. At this point, the cars don’t require human interaction under most circumstances, freeing up drivers to potentially play or view Sony content. Honda has confirmed that these technologies are being considered for future joint venture models, the first of which are due out in 2025.

For Sony, the partnership with Honda gives it access to supply chains, production know-how and vehicle sales expertise. Car manufacturers’ operations are subject to strict safety standards and they must be responsible for the entire life cycle of their vehicles, from maintenance to eventual disposal.

While the process of forming Big Tech-automaker partnerships can be difficult, the model is “essential” to keeping pace with rapidly changing cars, said Olaf Sakkers, co-founder of RedBlue Capital, a early stage investor in mobility startups.

“There’s a clear target – Tesla – that everyone is falling behind,” Sakkers said. Sony and Honda’s alliance shows that “companies need to realize what their core competencies are and where they need technology and partners,” he said. Not only is there likely to be more consolidation within the auto industry itself in the future, but “the partnership model will be increasingly visible.”

That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Apple has been looking everywhere for an ally to help it develop and produce its car, but talks with Hyundai Motor Co. and Ferrari NV have stalled, likely because they fear becoming an assembler for a product that could end up to cannibalize their business. So far, most tech-auto tie-ups have avoided Honda and Sony-style 50-50 partnerships.

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