Honda-Sony Cars May Go To Competing Dealers

Industry News / 1 Comment

The synergy could create serious tension with Honda and Acura dealerships.

According to Automotive News, the new brand Afeela, created by Honda and Sony, is looking at the idea of making after-sales service available outside the Honda and Acura dealership network. The idea of Honda-based vehicles being maintained, repaired, and serviced at other brand dealerships is sure to rankle its dealers. Service centers are a major source of income for dealerships and are sure to take a hit as electric vehicles grow in popularity, as they need considerably less attention to keep on the road.

However, in a connected world that makes dealerships less and less necessary for selling cars, automakers need to start rethinking retail, and disruption of the old-school business model is inevitable.

Sony Honda Mobility

"Not only Honda dealers. There may be several opportunities," Yasuhide Mizuno, CEO of Sony Honda Mobility Inc., told the publication about plans for Afeela's after-sales network. "It might be that is the best way for the customer."

And there lies the rub - what's best for customers isn't necessarily best for dealerships. That has been the case for decades, but it looks like the Sony Honda Mobility venture could become the tip of the spear for the long past due reinvention of the automotive business. The fact Mizuno is ready to talk about the idea publicly is a testament to how powerful of an idea it is to link two of Japan's most iconic brands together.

Adding insult to injury, Acura plans to only sell online the ZDX and ZDX Type S.

Sony Honda Mobility
Sony Honda Mobility

"Unfortunately, there has been a lot of speculation and rumor regarding the Afeela product," says Bill Feinstein, chairman of the Honda National Dealer Advisory Board, which was caught unaware of any talk of expanding servicing outside of Honda dealers. "What I do know is that Honda dealers strongly believe that products designed and/or produced by Honda should be sold by Honda dealers."

Of course they do. But the reality is a technician is a technician and can be trained to work with any brand's vehicles. It's not like a Honda technician is stuck at Honda dealerships for their entire career if they don't want to be.

Honda dealerships may complain, but Mizuno, formerly of Honda, is clear that Sony-Honda is not beholden to the Honda brand. "The customer might feel this is Honda's company or maybe this is Sony's company," he said. "But basically, Honda Motor is completely segregated from Sony-Honda."

Sony Honda Mobility
Sony Honda Mobility

Afeela already has Honda dealers annoyed by announcing its first car is to be sold online. On top of that, the brand intends for its software defined cars to age slowly and have long (ten-year) lease deals with the cars kept fresh via over-the-air updates.

"We have to maintain attractiveness for ten years," Mizuno said. "This is our concept."

Affela's business plan is a bold concept that needs to be proven, particularly as future-proofing in an age where technology is moving at a crazy pace. For example, we don't even know what USB ports will be in cars in five years (we're still transitioning to USB-C), let alone what battery tech will be available.

Sony Honda Mobility
Sony Honda Mobility

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