Mere weeks after officially debuting its AFEELA EV in front of crowds at CES, the joint venture between Sony and Honda has a unique strategy for how its future customers will be able to afford it. Although we don’t yet know the EV’s starting MSRP, Sony Honda Mobility is already admitting it’s “a bit expensive” due in part to all the technology it will come equipped with to ensure its longevity (hint hint).
Despite Sony bringing some form of a vehicle presence to CES in Las Vegas the past four years, the most recent event felt like the first time an EV with Sony’s DNA could become an genuine consumer model, thanks to a collaboration with Honda announced in March of 2022.
Those initial discussions evolved into an official joint venture called Sony Honda Mobility Inc., which was officially signed over the summer and is expected to bring an EV to several global markets by 2026. Honda will provide its e:Architecture for the JV to build upon, while Sony Mobility Inc. will call in favors to parent Sony Corp. for access to its software and sensor technology. Not to mention its vast catalog of music and video content (ever heard of Ghostbusters?).
At CES, we got our first official look at the EV from the Sony Honda joint venture, which will exist as part of a new automotive brand called AFEELA. Loaded with advanced technology including 45 different sensors, Sony and Honda expect AFEELA to be an EV customers enjoy and keep fresh for years.
Perhaps up to an entire decade? That might be the best way to justify its pending price tag.
Sony Honda Mobility wants you to lease its EV for ten years
When the AFEELA EV begins sales in 2025, Sony Honda Mobility Chairman and CEO Yasuhide Mizuno believes the best route for customers will be a lease, but not your typical three-year option. He spoke to journalists following the CES reveal:
Replacing the car every three to five years is a very traditional methodology. But now, big change. This car is always updating; therefore, we try to utilize customers over five to 10 years.
Ten years is one hell of a commitment for a vehicle you’re not necessarily buying equity in, but the Japanese joint venture thinks AFEELA will have the necessary tech and computing power to stay relevant well into the 2030s.
In addition to the 45 sensors previously mentioned, Mizuno stated that the upcoming EV will come with an 800 trillion operations per second (TOPS) chip from Qualcomm, capable enough to enable Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous driving (if and when those levels become more safe and regulated for widespread use).
An 800 TOPS chip is a ridiculous amount of computing power considering most EVs are currently using chips in the double-digits in terms of TOPS, part of the reason why the joint venture is expecting a fairly high starting price. Per Mizuno:
The car itself is a bit expensive, but subscription payments are not so damaging.
So… rather than pay more money up front to own the EV, you can lease it for ten years? That strategy makes sense to an extent, especially given the computing power and ability for Level 4 autonomous driving being promised, but wouldn’t be easier to make 5-6 years of payments to own the vehicle, than enjoy 4-5 years without a car payment?
Additionally, Sony Honda Mobility Inc. states that future AFEELA customers can refuse updates to their EV to pay less on their lease each month, but if they want their vehicle to stay up-to-date, they must pay the same monthly fee for the entirety of the lease, even as the car drifts further from being shiny and new.
All in all, this remains a tough decision to even fathom given that we have zero inclination of where the Sony Honda EV might start on the price scale.
Looking ahead, Mizuno said the first AFEELA EV will likely be built in the US at a new manufacturing facility Honda is planning to erect in Ohio. Mizuno also stated that the joint venture is planning an entire EV lineup and the AFEELA sedan eventually be joined by an electric SUV next, followed by a second sedan or possible minivan.
The AFEELA EV is expect to go on sale in the US and Japan in mid- to late-2026, followed by Europe by late-2026, early-2027.
I don’t know. I’m in my second three-year lease and feel like that’s plenty of time for the industry to innovate past a given model and get a consumer’s eyes wandering onto what may be next.
Just look at how far EVs in particular have evolved since 2019. Look how many new models there are from many more automakers young and old, not to mention advanced charging capabilities and emerging technologies that could be an industry-wide game changer like solid-state batteries.
That’s a big ask from a joint venture that is looking to reach production on its first ever EV together. It’s not like Honda has BEVs down pat yet, either. It’s practically in R&D phase when it comes to that technology. I’m sure the infotainment and content options will be great from Sony, but cars are a whole other monster, even when considering the fact that EVs are more like computers than ever.
What are the chances these two companies hit it out of the park on their first try? Enough so that consumers keep theirs for ten years without technically owning it?
I’m not saying people won’t commit to a five to ten year lease for an AFEELA EV, I just wonder how many of them see it through maturation, or how many of them bow out early for something newer that goes farther.
I’d be remiss to not mention that I am happy to see this joint venture, despite its brand nomenclature (not AFEELIN it at all), develop something that seems viable and looks sleek. But let’s see how much this thing actually costs.