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The Sony Honda Afeela car is peak CES, and I’m totally here for it

Everyone knew what was coming. Sitting a half-dozen rows back at the Sony press conference the afternoon before the CES show floor actually opened, you could tell by the layout of the booth — drastically different from what Sony had in previous years — that something big was going to be wheeled out.

That something, of course, was a car. It wasn’t a big secret. Folks were talking about it on the bus ride to the Las Vegas Convention Center from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, where a good chunk of the work happens before the CES doors are open. Folks were talking about it — in all sorts of languages — in the long line down the hallway that separates two of the bigger halls at the LVCC. English. Japanese. Spanish. So many others. And you didn’t have to actually know what they were saying to know what they were talking about.

Yasuhide Mizuno, representative director, chairman and CEO of Sony Honda Mobility Inc., introduces the Afeela EV.
Yasuhide Mizuno, representative director, chairman, and CEO of Sony Honda Mobility Inc., introduces the Afeela EV at CES 2023. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

The different shape of the Sony booth was a big tell. Instead of being standing-room only, though there certainly still was a fair amount of that, chairs were set in front of a wide stage — the sort of layout you’d expect so that you can hide a car on one side, but still have plenty of room for the actual presentation. And Sony’s presentation, led by Sony chairman, president, and CEO (a triple threat!) Kenichiro Yoshida, was as good as it’s ever been. It deftly weaved a story about telling stories, be it from gaming or entertainment or from the cameras that make it all happen.

And then it all came together with Gran Turismo. We’re in the seventh iteration of the standout video game franchise, and Sony is obviously proud of that. But it’s the upcoming Gran Turismo film from acclaimed director Neill Blomkamp (you know him from District 9 and Elysium, among others) that Sony masterfully used as a crescendo. On stage were Blomkamp, Sony’s head of PlayStation Productions Asad Qizilbash, and Sanford Panitch, president of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group. They talked about the storytelling. They talked about how it’s Sony’s innovative cameras that helped make this film possible. And they gave us a sneak peek at the movie, which will be released in August 2023.

Gran Turismo director Neill Blomkamp at the Sony press conference at CES 2023.
Gran Turismo director Neill Blomkamp at the Sony press conference at CES 2023. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

And as race-car movies go, it was loud. It was fast. It got people excited because of the way it looked. Because of the way it felt. Because it’s a fast-paced movie about a beloved video game, shown in a room full of fans of movies, video games, and, most of all, Sony.

So folks were revved up by the time the Sony Honda Mobility Aleefa — that’s the full combined name of the venture and the prototype vehicle — made its way on stage. Dozens and dozens of arms holding phones shot into the air, fighting for in-person pics of the vehicle.

Seeing the car in person, though not particularly up close, is what this sort of thing is all about. It wasn’t news that Sony and Honda are working on a car. It wasn’t news that the car won’t ship until 2026. That’s four very long years from now, as competitors like Hyundai, Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagen (to name but a few) are ramping up their EV production.

A look at the 45 sensors in the Sony Honda Afeela EV.
A look at the 45 sensors in the Sony Honda Afeela EV. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

No matter. The presentation ended and the scrum began, for everyone to get the same shots of the same car that you can’t buy anytime soon.

CES isn’t about what’s available now, or even in the near future. It’s about getting folks excited about what’s coming eventually. Probably. Hopefully.

CES® 2023 Press Conference|Sony Official

Afeela is that. It’s a sleek EV from two storied Japanese companies, Sony and Honda. The mere prospect of having a PlayStation 5 (or newer by 2026?!?!) tucked inside is enough to excite the most jaded nerd.

And that’s exactly what CES is about.

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Phil Nickinson
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