Japanese trio to establish new company to oversee development process

Japanese companies Mazda, Toyota and Denso have signed a contract this week to co-develop "basic structural technologies" for electric vehicles (EV), and establish a new company to oversee the related joint development projects.

Following the two automotive manufacturers announcing plans to work together on EV tech and connected infotainment systems, this latest announcement adds Denso Corporation into the mix - a Japan-based global automotive components manufacturer that is a subsidiary of Toyota.

The three companies will form a new company to be known as EV C.A. Spirit, which will be tasked with developing EV technology for a "wide variety of vehicle segments and types to ensure flexible and rapid response to market trends", and the ultimate goal is to create "appealing EVs that embody the unique identities of each brand and avoid the commoditisation of EVs".

According to the partners, this includes kei cars, regularly-sized passenger cars, crossovers, SUVs and light trucks.

At its inception EV C.A. Spirit will be seeded with 10 million yen ($1.1 million) in capital. 90 per cent of that will come from Toyota, with Mazda and Denso kicking in five per cent each.

Despite the unequal financial contributions, the companies say they will be "dedicating an equal amount of development resources". Any vehicles that head into production will be made at existing factories.

To start with there will be a staff of around 40 employees sourced from the three parent companies. EV C.A. Spirit will be headquartered in Nagoya, near Toyota City.

The partnership "aims to innovate the development process" by drawing upon each company's strengths, including Mazda's product planning and prowess in computer modelling-based development, Denso's expertise in electronics, along with Toyota's New Global Architecture (TNGA) modular platform - which underpins the Prius (below), C-HR, and new-generation Camry.

Additionally, the companies aim to create a structure that is open to participation by other automotive manufacturers and suppliers as well.

Mazda and Toyota say they decided to form a partnership in order to deal with "new regulations that mandate a certain proportion of electric vehicle sales", but also acknowledging as "EVs [have] yet to find widespread market acceptance, the huge investments and time required to cover all markets and vehicle segments is a pressing issue for individual automakers when responding to the widely varying demand for vehicles around the world".

Thus far the thrust of Toyota's zero emissions vehicle plans have been hydrogen fuel cell cars, with the Mirai being its first commercially available product, albeit only in a limited number of markets.

The core part of Toyota's green technology strategy, though, revolves around hybrids and plug-in hybrids, including its image-leading Prius range.

Notably, the joint statement from the companies states: "We regard electric vehicles (EVs) as a key technological field in this process [of regulatory compliance] alongside fuel cell vehicles".

Mazda has largely resisted electrifying its vehicles, although it does sell a hybrid version of the 3 sedan in its home market, which mixes together hybrid components from Toyota and its own SkyActiv petrol engine.