Toyota-SoftBank self-driving venture adds 5 Japanese automakers

  • Automotive
  • Alliances & Technology Transfer

Toyota-SoftBank self-driving venture adds 5 Japanese automakers

TOKYO -- Five more Japanese automakers look to participate in an effort to develop next-generation transportation services led by Toyota Motor and SoftBank Group, uniting much of the country's auto industry in the pursuit.

Mazda Motor, Suzuki Motor, Subaru, Daihatsu Motor and Isuzu Motors will invest in Monet Technologies, a joint venture announced by Toyota and SoftBank in 2018. Monet aims to provide services such as on-demand rides in self-driving vehicles in Japan.

Despite their continued rivalry in conventional cars, automakers are teaming to collect and analyze data in order to provide mobility as a service. Monet has urged Japan's automakers to join the effort.

The newcomers each will take an ownership stake of several percentage points in Monet. Combined with three other automakers already involved in the venture, the members are responsible for 77% of all new vehicles sold in Japan last year.

Honda Motor and Hino Motors each invested over 200 million yen ($1.86 million) in March for roughly 10% stakes in Monet. Technology investor SoftBank holds a little over 40% ownership, and Toyota a little under 40%.

The five new members possess deep ties to Toyota in electric vehicles and other fields. Their participation could strengthen the venture's position as a leader in Japan's mobility services and help take it overseas.

Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors are the only remaining Japanese automakers outside the consortium. Instead, Nissan and French partner Renault said June 20 that they will partner with Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet, on self-driving services. They are launching a Japanese-French venture as well.

The rise of connected, autonomous, shared and electric cars -- also called CASE vehicles -- is reshaping the auto industry. The development of self-driving systems in particular requires the collection and analysis of massive amounts of data, and technology giants are making rapid inroads in the field. Waymo had collected enough data on public roads to circumnavigate the world 400 times by the end of 2018.

Monet plans to roll out services in Japan initially, but looks eventually to expand elsewhere into Asia and other overseas markets. Foreign automakers could join the consortium as well, bringing more data to help compete with information technology companies.

The market for shared on-demand vehicles will reach $1.4 trillion by 2030 in the U.S., European Union and China alone, according to an estimate by PwC.

To popularize CASE cars while keeping its own costs down, Toyota is increasing cooperation with other companies. The automaker is working with Uber Technologies, and other partners to develop the e-Palette, a self-driving vehicle that can be used for ride-sharing or as a mobile storefront.

Toyota also formed a joint venture with Mazda and automotive components maker Denso in 2017 to develop basic structural technologies for electric vehicles. It has since turned into a consortium, with nine companies including Subaru, Daihatsu, Suzuki and Hino sending talent and other resources. Almost all of its members will take part in Monet.

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Publication Date
Thu, 06/27/2019 - 00:00