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Sony eyes 'independent' EV joint venture with Honda

CEO says initial public offering for new company is possible

Sony Group Chairman, President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida speaks to Nikkei on June 6 in Tokyo about his hopes for the company's joint venture with Honda in electric vehicles. (Photo by Yukinori Okamura)

TOKYO -- The head of Sony Group has said the company's planned joint venture with Honda Motor may hold a public share offering as the two companies prepare to develop electric vehicles together.

"We shared the view that it is better to make the joint venture independent, in the long run, rather than putting it under Sony or Honda," Sony Chairman, President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida told Nikkei in an interview Monday. When asked about the possibility of an initial public offering for the venture, or selling a stake to other companies, he said, "That's a possibility."

Sony and Honda plan to form a joint venture by the end of this year with the aim of marketing their first EVs in 2025. Sony will develop the software and entertainment content, such as movies and music, available in the car, while Honda will provide the hardware and safety features for the vehicle itself.

"We want to contribute to the evolution of mobility by providing the basis with network functions," Yoshida said, citing the successful business models of the Aibo robotic dog and PlayStation game console as examples.

As for what the venture will look like and its business model, he said the partners are in discussions, adding, "I hope to be able to talk a little about it at some point in the near future."

As seen in the case of the Apple car, a potential challenger, companies from outside the auto industry are about to enter the business. "Mobility is becoming more of a service," Yoshida said, indicating that there may be competition with Apple, and there may be areas where the two rivals can collaborate.

Sony last year stated its long-term goal of attracting 1 billion customers to entertainment and other services directly connected to the company. The company's entertainment business is growing rapidly, overshadowing its traditional electronics business. Games and network services, movies, and music together accounted for 51% of Sony's total sales last fiscal year, topping 50% for the first time.

While Sony lends its software expertise to the development of electric vehicles, it is taking the opposite route into the metaverse -- a more robust cyberspace that employs virtual reality and other interactive technologies -- where it will lean on its hardware chops.

"The metaverse has the power to integrate games, music, and e-commerce," Yoshida said, adding that he has high expectations for this new cyberspace to evolve into a live entertainment space.

Already, he said, Sony is developing certain devices for the metaverse, including stereophonic audio equipment that will make listeners believe they are surrounded by sound and high-definition displays that viewers will wear like sunglasses.

Yoshida is confident that Sony's sensors and organic light-emitting diode display technology can contribute to an expanding metaverse. "We are boldly using our capital investment and R&D expenditures for sensing technology, including for cars," he said.

Additional reporting by Keiichi Furukawa.

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