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Sony looks to electric cars for its next big hit

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Japan’s Sony Group Corp plans to launch a company this spring to examine entering the electric vehicle market, looking to harness its strengths in entertainment and sensors to play a bigger role in next-generation mobility.

The new company, Sony Mobility Inc, comes as the Japanese tech giant is “exploring a commercial launch” of electric vehicles, Sony chairman and president Kenichiro Yoshida told a news conference, speaking ahead of the CES technology trade fair in the United States.

“With our imaging and sensing, cloud, 5G and entertainment technologies combined with our contents mastery, we believe Sony is well positioned as a creative entertainment company to redefine mobility,” he said.

Although its once-dominant position in consumer electronics has been eroded by Asian rivals like South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co, Sony still has an arsenal of sophisticated technology in areas such as sensors critical to autonomous driving.

It also remains one of the world’s biggest entertainment companies, home to prominent video game and movie franchises. Audio and entertainment systems are increasingly a focus for next-generation vehicles.

Shares in Sony jumped 4.2% in Tokyo after the electric vehicle plans were announced, easily outpacing a flat Nikkei index.

Yoshida unveiled a prototype sport utility vehicle (SUV), the VISION-S 02, which uses the same electric vehicle platform as the previously announced VISION-S 01 coupe that began testing on public roads in Europe from December 2020.

He said the company saw mobility as an “entertainment space” where passengers could chose individual entertainment options and use 5G internet connection.

Wall Street is betting heavily on electric cars and the global auto industry has been upended by Tesla Inc, now the world’s most valuable automaker. Many investors also expect Apple Inc to launch its own vehicle within the next few years.

Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp in December committed $70 billion to electrify its automobiles by 2030.


(Reuters)

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Microsoft’s Activision Deal Holds Climate Quarrels

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In the past, Microsoft has built strong environmental, social, and governance policies around itself, and now with the latest Activision Blizzard acquisition news, the Big Tech giant could be facing years of work to bring the gaming titan in alignment with its sustainability policies.

The Big Tech giant is already setting in motion plans to compensate the entirety of its monumental greenhouse-gas emissions. Still, the software developer might encounter certain challenges in mirroring its ambitions with Activision.

Activision has never uncovered plans to follow the lead of some of the biggest tech companies riding the wave of minimizing their detrimental effect on the planet. The company has barely disclosed any environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information and places far less sustainable policies than some of the sector’s most significant tech names.

While the deal is far from being completed – given it still needs regulatory approval – Microsoft would have to invest hefty efforts into Activision to reciprocate its sustainability policies and be applicable.

As of January 19, sustainability-driven funds exceeded $53 billion of the tech giant’s shares, placing it at the top when it came to such funds, according to data service provider Morningstar Inc.

Let’s compare this data with Activision Blizzard’s $869 million in funds. We can see that Microsoft might have a long way to actually fulfill its vision in interlocking its capabilities with those of the gaming giant.

Many factors drove Microsoft’s move to acquire Activision, and sustainability is one of them. The gaming mogul’s ESG problems, allegations of sexual harassment, and work-environment waywardness detrimentally affected the company’s share prices, sending its shares to a 6 percent drop by the end of 2021.

In its investors’ call, Microsoft emphasized investing efforts into setting groundbreaking rules to reshape Activision’s workplace culture, placing it as a priority.

While both companies are working to fill in specific gaps and mismanagement issues in Activision, the fact remains that there’s quite an ordeal of matters to be dealt with concerning managing gaps between both companies.

In Microsoft’s case, the company openly conveys many topics in its reports, ranging from “corporate social responsibility, environment, and diversity and inclusion,” according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The Washington-based company covers the amount of energy it employs from both renewable and non-renewable sources based on the region and the type of sources. The tech giant announced that it bought and consumed more than 6.8 million megawatt-hours in 2020 in North America, compared to a number exceeding 186,000 MWh from non-renewable sources.

From another aspect, Activision released its first-ever ESG document last year but failed to divulge any environmental metrics to support the report’s data.

“At this time, we are unable to collect data related to the energy and water footprint associated with our offices,” the gaming firm stated.

The reports indicate that Activision is not weaponized with the tools needed to obtain primary environmental data on its conduct.

“It will take a significant effort to collect Activision’s environmental data required to get its reporting to the same level as Microsoft,” said Joe Holman, leading the ESG practice at WithumSmith+Brown PC.

It is worth mentioning that Holman also predicted that once the acquisition reaches its final stages, it would take almost two years for Microsoft to gather the needed ESG data for the video game developer.

Activision did not immediately respond to a comment to WSJ. Microsoft refrained from commenting on the matter.

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Nissan, Mitsubishi to unveil 2030 EV plan this week

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Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp plan to triple their investment to jointly develop electric vehicles (EVs), two people with knowledge of the plan told Reuters.

As established automakers face pressure from new competitors and an expected shift in demand toward EVs, the French-Japanese alliance is seeking to deepen cooperation.

The three are expected to announce on Thursday a plan to invest more than 20 billion euros ($23 billion) over the next five years on EV development, the sources said. By 2030, the alliance is expected to come up with more than 30 new battery EVs underpinned by five common platforms, they said.

That is in addition to 10 billion euros the group has already spent on electrification, said the two people with knowledge of the plan.

A Nissan spokesperson declined to “comment on speculation”. Spokespeople for Renault and Mitsubishi did not respond to requests for comment.

The “Alliance to 2030” plan aims to show “intensified cooperation” among the automakers, highlighting a “shared vision on electrification and connected mobility,” one source said. The five common platforms are expected to cover 90% of EVs the companies are expected to develop and launch by 2030, the sources said.

The three-firm alliance has developed and partly deployed four common EV platforms.

One underpins EVs such as Nissan’s upcoming Ariya and Renault’s Megane EV, and another supports affordable no-frills cars by Nissan and its China market partner Dongfeng, as well as for Renault’s Dacia brand. The other two are platforms for micro minis, called “kei cars” in Japan, and light commercial vehicles.

By mid-decade, the alliance aims to deploy a fifth common platform for compact EVs designed by Renault, the sources said.

Nissan has already decided to use this platform, called CMFB-EV, and other standardised components to electrify the Nissan Micra compact car, while Renault is expected to come up with a similar EV car based on the same platform, the sources said. The Micra EV is projected to be released by the mid-2020s.

AFFORDABLE EVs

The automakers hope to make compact EVs as affordable as gasoline-fuelled vehicles of similar size, the sources said.

The automakers are expected to use common batteries and other key components. The alliance plans to jointly invest in capacity to produce in France, Britain, China and Japan a total of 220 gigawatt hours of battery capacity by 2030 under the plan, the sources said.

By standardising and sharing batteries, the alliance expects to halve battery manufacturing costs, they said.

The alliance is also expected to share solid-state lithium-ion battery technology, which Nissan has been developing, they said.

The plan had been for the leaders of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi to announce the 2030 plan last autumn at an event in Japan, but the announcement was postponed until this week because of a surge in COVID-19 in Japan, the sources said.

A disagreement between Nissan and Renault over the French firm’s proposals for a full-blown merger – tensions that burst into the open with the arrest of former alliance leader Carlos Ghosn in 2018 – corresponded with stalled efforts to collaborate on technology and vehicle development, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

The three automakers all have their own hybrid technologies with few shared key parts and systems. The limited cooperation in sourcing and development has raised concern within the group about the ability to achieve cost savings, one source said.

It was not immediately clear whether alliance leaders will discuss hybrids as part of their 2030 plan.

Nissan said in November it planned to spend some $18 billion over five years to accelerate vehicle electrification, launching 23 electrified vehicles – including gasoline-electric hybrids – by 2030, including 15 EVs. Half of Nissan’s vehicle mix will be electrified by 2030, including EVs and e-Power hybrids, the company said.

Renault has said its Renault brand will be 100% electric in Europe by 2030, but company officials told Reuters the target does not apply to markets outside Europe and the group’s other brands, such as Dacia.

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Sony seeks new partners for transformative EV project -executive

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Sony Group will likely add new technology partners to its electric vehicle (EV) project to help it forge a mobility business to transform cars from transportation machines to entertainment spaces, a Sony executive told Reuters.

An ongoing shift to electric cars, which are easier to build than those with internal combustion engines, is allowing new entrants into vehicle manufacturing. At the same time, autonomous driving and 5G connectivity is expected remold the auto industry by turning cars into mobile platforms for information and entertainment services.

“We see the risk of ignoring EVs as greater than the challenge they pose,” Izumi Kawanishi, the senior general manager who will manage a new Sony Mobility business, said in an interview. The coming transformation of cars was in some ways similar to how information technology turned phones into smartphones, he added.

Announcing the creation of that new mobility unit at the CES technology tech fair in Las Vegas this month, Sony Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida suggested for the first time that the creator of PlayStation games consoles will try to turn an EV development project started two years ago into a money-making venture.

“We understand that speed is important in terms of making a decision,” said Kawanishi, who joined the Japanese consumer electronics company as a software engineer in 1986 and heads the AI Robotics unit making Sony’s Aibo robot pet.

Kawanishi declined to say whether a final decision on whether to go ahead would come this year.

PARTNERS

So far, Sony has built two EV “Vision” prototypes with a factory in Austria owned by Canadian auto parts maker Magna International, which also makes cars for firms including BMW, Mercedes Benz and Toyota Motor Corp .

Other members of its Europe-based project include German auto parts maker Bosch, French automotive technology company Valeo SE and Hungarian autonomous vehicle start-up AImotive.

To bring an EV to market, Sony would likely have to invest heavily in plant and equipment. Tesla Inc, which delivered its first electric vehicle in 2008, has spent billions of dollars to make its business viable.

Sony will also have to take on traditional carmakers too, such as Toyota, General Motors Co and Volkswagen AG, which are spending tens of billions of dollars to beat the EV newcomers.

Sony is one of a growing list of technology firms exploring automotive opportunities, including iPhone maker Apple Inc, South Korea’s LG Electronics Taiwan’s Foxconn, and China’s Alibaba Group

Sony will pick new partners for its EV project based on the technology they can bring to the project, without regard to their nationality, Kawanishi said, when asked if Sony would partner with Chinese companies.


TOKYO (Reuters)

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