TOYOTA and Japanese rival Mazda are expanding their partnership to a long-term one focusing on technologies in the areas of safety and fuel efficiency.
Toyoda expressed interest in Hiroshima-based Mazda’s fuel-efficient technology for gasoline engines and diesel vehicles called Skyactive.
Indeed, the companies are setting up a joint committee to figure out how best to work together.
Both sides said the goal was to have their engineers work together on product development. The announcement comes amid media reports that said the two companies are exploring numerous projects.
Among them would be an arrangement in which Toyota supplies Mazda with its hydrogen fuel cell system and plug-in hybrid technology, in exchange for receiving Mazda’s fuel-efficient Skyactiv gasoline and diesel engine technology.
Toyota President, Akio Toyoda, said: “It’s more an engagement,” responding to comparisons to the event as a wedding.
The companies aren’t taking stakes in each other. But neither immediately went into specifics, such as whether Toyota would license Mazda to use its new green technology, such as fuel cells, which runs on the energy created when hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air to form water. Toyota already provides hybrid technology to Mazda.
Mazda also makes compact cars for Toyota at its Mexico plant. The organisations said the two companies share a corporate culture based on a determination to pursue quality cars.
Toyoda expressed admiration for Mazda’s design finesse. “We both take up challenges,” Toyoda told reporters. “I’m excited to think about what kind of chemical reaction will be concocted, what great products will be created, when our engineers work together.”
Toyota has repeatedly said it is open to alliances with other automakers. It has worked with General Motors, and it announced collaboration on fuel cells with BMW in 2013.
Mazda used to have a powerful partner in Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co., which bought 25 percent of Mazda in 1979, and raised it to 33.4 percent in 1996. But Ford began cutting ties in 2008, and shedding its stake in Mazda.
The tie-up with Mazda is the latest addition to Toyota’s sprawling empire, which has Japanese truck maker Hino Motors and minicar maker Daihatsu Motor Co. as a group company under its wing. It is the top shareholder in Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars. “Many people assume Toyota is just about money,” said Toyoda, in explaining why no capital tie-up with Mazda was in the works.
“Toyota is trying to be reborn as a company that makes ever better cars.” Toyota had long prioritized gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrains over traditional internal combustion systems. But it now is revamping base engines across the lineup.
The new technologies draw on direct injection, turbocharging, high compression ratios and lean-burning Atkinson-cycle combustion. Last month, Toyota said it was stepping up a global engine upgrade of 14 high-efficiency engines through 2015 with the deployment of a new downsized turbo unit.