Yesterday, the heads of Toyota and Suzuki announced that the two car makers will begin investigating a new partnership focusing on safety, green cars and information technology.
According to the two companies, the automotive industry is “changing drastically and rapidly in an unprecedented fashion”. The rapid pace of change, spurred by tougher environmental and safety regulations, and the emergence of self-driving technology, is raising up development costs and forcing companies to work together.
While Suzuki has a strong small car portfolio and a dominant position in the Indian market, it is “increasingly feeling a sense of uncertainty”, especially with respect to advanced and future technology.
Above and top: Akio Toyoda and Osamu Suzuki.
During a press conference, Osamu Suzuki, Suzuki’s chairman, said that the feeling of uncertainty would remain “if we only continue to just refine our traditional automobile technologies which we have been working on thus far”.
Meanwhile, Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO, said that “there is a limit to the R&D which each company is conducting individually”, even one as large and cashed up Toyota.
While Toyota’s large research and development department has plenty invested in environmental, safety, and future technology, Toyoda admitted that “it may be behind competitors in North America and Europe when it comes to the establishment of standardisations and partnership with other companies”.
Although this announcement seemingly confirms rumours that surfaced in January of a link up between the two automakers, the Suzuki chairman said that despite on-going discussions with his counterpart of Toyota, he only formally raised the prospect of a partnership in the last month or so.
The two companies say that despite any future collaboration behind the scenes, they will “continue to compete with each other in a fair and independent manner”.
Suzuki and Toyota say that they are open for other companies to join them in their research and development efforts, and hope that they can drive further standardisation within the industry.
Above: Suzuki Ignis.
When asked in a question and answer session afterwards if the partnership between the two companies could lead to Toyota investing in Suzuki, or vice versa, Toyoda stated: “I have no ideas right now. Everything starts from here”.
“We are independent companies and we are going to run these companies independently. That remains unchanged,” Suzuki reiterated.
Earlier this year, Toyota completed its takeover of Daihatsu, the Japanese small car specialist that Toyota has had a majority stake in since 1998. The company also has a partnership with BMW, with the two working together on hydrogen fuel-cell technology, as well as developing the new Z5 roadster and Supra successor off the same platform.
In May, Suzuki admitted that it had used incorrect procedures to determine the official fuel economy numbers for its domestic market models. Due to the scandal, Osamu Suzuki stepped down as CEO in June, but retained his title of chairman.