Today on AutoInfluence, we shine the spotlight on Toyota, and the wide net that they are casting to pursue leadership in autonomy.
If you think back to High School, how well do you remember English Lit class? Don’t worry, we’re not here expecting you to recite Shakespeare, but you might remember the fact that – across all of literature – there are only seven types of stories you can tell: overcoming the monster, rebirth, quest, journey and return, rags to riches, tragedy and comedy. And while I’m sure some people are still debating that breakdown, it rings true when it comes to any movies you’ve seen or books you’ve read. Each one has been a variation of one of those themes.
What does this have to do with automotive reporting? Well, simply put, it’s not uncommon for us to report on – what feels like – variations of the same stories.
While one might think that there’s no shortage of uniquely exciting news to step onto the global automotive stage, there’s a surprising amount of overlap and redundancies. Even with upstart automakers as ambitious as say, Tesla, there’s a limit to “how far ahead of the game” any one automaker can be. Engineering and science simply won’t allow anything else. Most of the time, automakers find themselves neck-in-neck with competitors working in parallel fashions to deliver their own version of what is, ultimately, the same technology (if not technology designed to achieve the same goal).
So it’s no real surprise that a large share of automotive news stories we come across these days have at least one foot firmly planted in either ‘sustainability’ or ‘autonomy’. These are, after all, the two major areas of focus that automotive innovation is being directed towards. And of the latter, Toyota seems to be one of automakers that are hedging their bets on a wider scale.
A large part of Toyota’s thirst for autonomy comes from their placement within the Chinese market. While analysts have estimated that self-driving vehicles will make up 10% of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. as of 2030, the estimates for autonomy in China are much higher – coming in at around 35%.
And, by all accounts, Toyota has some catching up to do in China. While they control about 10% of the global market share, they only boast about 6% in China. And with the Chinese automotive market all but focuses in electrification and autonomy, Toyota knows that they need to cast a wider net if they’re going to recoup more market share. If their efforts happen to pay off on the global stage as well, so be it.
In turn, Toyota has widened the scope of their individual efforts and partnerships. Addressing the most immediate avenues for autonomy, in the form of ride share technologies, Toyota has confirmed investment alongside Uber to create a mass-market self-driving kit and to help make autonomy a reality for Uber as quickly as 2021.
They are also signing on the Apollo self-driving platform, created by Chinese search company Baidu. Apollo is an innovative collaborative and open-source platform shared by over 135 companies to help advance development of their own autonomous technologies. Volkswagen and Ford count themselves among Apollo collaborators, so Toyota is certain in good company.
In addition, the automaker has already (i) set up the Toyota Research Institute in the U.S. (ii) launched a Software Development company in Tokyo to pursue self-driving technologies based on the stateside findings, and (iii) confirmed interest in establishing an R&D facility in either Shanghai or Beijing, accruing local partnerships to being a leading presence in mainland China.
And it was little surprise to anyone this week, when Toyota showed up among a list of panasian automakers who were investing in Monet Technologies. Spurred by the new inclusion of Subaru, alongside established investors like Honda, Mazda, Isuzu, Suzuki and Daihatsu, Toyota is a far more significant investor – accounting for a 34.8% stake in the autonomous tech company.
And Toyota seems to be equally ambitious in their bid for wider electrification in China. Currently, Toyota’s EV manufacturing capabilities in southeast Asia consists solely of plug-in hybrid offerings produced in Thailand. That said, they have now confirmed a $2B investment in Indonesia manufacturing to take place through 2023. Toyota’s goal? To tripe the annual sales of their electrified offerings, aiming to hit the 5.5 million mark by 2030. Propelled forward by battery manufacturing partners like Toshiba, CATL, BYD and GS Yuasa it seems that they’re making smart supply chain decisions.
So, this week, we’re talking about Toyota’s efforts in both electrification and autonomy. By the time we’ve posted this, it’s entirely likely that another automaker will have stolen the spotlight. And by the time we’ve realized that, another one will have already come along and done the same. In this relentless race for self-driving and/or zero emission vehicles, no prisoners are being taken. Strategic alliances are being formed and terminated every day, and everyone is looking for a piece of the pie. Regardless of who’s first to cross the finish line, we should all expect to be a little bit dizzy trying to follow the progress in years to come.
This has been AutoInfluence. Thanks for listening.