Toyota Changing Direction By Opening Up Hybrid System to Competitors

Toyota Motor Corp. will be opening up hybrid technology to rivals.

The Japanese automaker announced last week that the hybrid technology used in the Prius and other Toyota and Lexus hybrids will see expanded development. Toyota also said it would consider selling its powertrain modules to other automakers; those modules include engines, transmissions, and other drivetrain components.

The company sees the increasingly strict regulatory climate for lower-emission vehicles as an opportunity to increase sales and move the industry along toward adopting electrified vehicle technologies.

Along with increasing emissions regulations, Toyota’s announcement comes within the context of global automakers opening up to working with competitors on powertrains and other technologies that end up under the hood. The industry is now dependent on computerized components and a long list of tech features that are becoming standard in new vehicles.

Automakers are standardizing parts and components and competing more on style and packaging. It also makes for an easier choice to design and share similar parts and components across model lines – and with competitors.

It will be an historic cultural shift for Toyota, long known for keeping its network of automotive suppliers in-house. Suppliers have kept joint developed technology exclusive to Toyota, which the automaker had used as a competitive edge against competitors.

“Toyota suppliers produce a lot of technology which can only be used by Toyota,” said Toshiyuki Mizushima, president of Toyota’s powertrain company. “We want to change that to a system where we develop technology with our suppliers at an earlier stage … so they can make that technology available to non-Toyota customers.”

Mizushima said that past versions of Toyota’s hybrid system didn’t fit other automakers’ cars. That severely limited suppliers’ options to sell to non-Toyota customers, and Toyota’s ability to do so.

“Until now, we couldn’t sell the same inverter used in Toyota’s previous hybrid system to other customers because it wouldn’t fit the motor, or the voltage was different,” said Yoshifumi Kato, executive director of engineering R&D at Denso Corp, Toyota’s largest supplier. “We can avoid this issue if suppliers can sell the entire system.”

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Toyota is also acknowledging the escalating costs of research and development. Along with investing heavily in electrified vehicle technologies, automakers are spending big on dashboard connected car systems and autonomous vehicle technology.

Last year, Toyota spent about $9 billion on R&D, which was 73 percent higher than in 2010. Volkswagen more than doubled that spend over the same time period, according to Reuters.

Reuters


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