The Sony Vision-S 01 and Vision-S 02 Concept EVs give us a preview of what Sony Honda Mobility could have in store.Photo: Sony
Sony and Honda are moving forward with their joint venture to make EVs that will allegedly be sold in the U.S. by 2026, but not as Sony or Honda branded cars. The two companies are titans of their respective industries, but now that auto and tech have started to overlap, Sony and Honda plan to use their expertise to bring EVs like the Sony Vision-S concept to market. And whatever EV the joint venture finally comes up with will rely on Honda dealers for service despite not wearing a Honda badge, as Automotive News reports.
Oddly enough, the EVs that Sony Honda Mobility eventually produces (or, if it produces any at all) will not wear a Honda badge — or Sony lettering, for that matter; it’s not like prospective buyers of these EVs will be able to bring their cars to Best Buy or the local big box. Even though EVs need less maintenance than their ICE-equipped counterparts, electric cars still require periodic service.
It might be a bit unnerving to buy a new EV from a new (untested) company, so Honda says its joint-venture EVs will fall back on its extensive dealer network in the U.S. for service. The Japanese automaker has over 1,100 Honda dealers and 270 Acura dealers in America, which it hopes will put buyers at ease. The move is a good strategy, which would sidestep the issue of either company refusing to lend their future EVs the brand recognition that Sony and Honda bring. Indeed, it could put buyers at ease and encourage them to give the new EVs a shot.
But the decision is hardly putting dealers at ease because Sony and Honda are not committing to a legacy sales model, and there are rumors that the EV company will favor online sales. So, it’s likely dealers will provide after-sales support, according to Automotive News, but Sony Honda Mobility and Honda leadership is mum about dealers being involved in the initial sale at all:
Speaking at the company’s financial results announcement Wednesday, [Honda] CFO Kohei Takeuchi said the sales model will be a completely new one, echoing early talk of an online approach.
“It will be something unconventional, not Sony, not Honda, but something new,” he said.
Takeuchi said the sales and servicing plan is still under discussion. But he added Honda has a network of more than 1,000 U.S. dealers who are well situated to service the new cars.
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Honda is catching a bit of flack for it, and its dealers are wary the auto giant will exclude them from EV sales under the new joint venture. Dealers are reportedly going as far as accusing Honda of purposefully establishing a joint venture with Sony to avoid franchise agreements in the U.S., which (I gotta hand it to Honda) is a shrewd if unsavory move.
Photo: Sony Honda Mobility
I mean, it’s hard to feel bad for dealers — of no specific car brand — who have lately been eager to tack on fees and markups that seem unreasonable. In the end, car buyers have proven that they will pay these markups regardless of the cost increase, so it’s not all on dealers. But, likewise, it’s not necessarily all on automakers to cater to dealers as the industry makes sweeping changes — both to combustion methods and retail networks.
To be fair, Honda dealers are right to be suspicious because Honda has already said that the age of EVs will kill off the mega dealership. Honda is under the impression dealerships will go through a big crunch after decades of expansion. Many auto makers are rushing to catch up to the direct sales model that Tesla popularized; they’re afraid the rampant growth of the last few decades is finally over. But, hey, service is where it’s at (talk about labor costs) and at least Honda says dealers will still be around for that.