Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corporation and Mazda Motor Corporation have officially just entered into what is being described as a ‘mutually beneficial long term partnership’ to jointly develop new automotive technologies that will feature in both Toyota and Mazda vehicles.
At the heart of this official collaborative partnership is the sharing of a wide range of advanced fuel technologies and safety systems. Under the agreement, Mazda would gain access to Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell technology alongside its hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology, while Toyota would gain access to Mazda’s high-efficiency SkyActiv gasoline engines.
Back in 2010, shortly after it ended its 31-year partnership with the Ford Motor Company, Mazda signed an agreement with Toyota to purchase the company’s high-end hybrid drivetrain technology for use in Mazda vehicles. That 2010 agreement not only helped Mazda move away from its previous partnership with Ford, but gave it hybrid technology far superior to the drivetrains used in previous-generation Mazda hybrids like the Ford Escape-based Mazda Tribute Hybrid.
With today’s announcement comes a tighter working integration between the two Japanese firms, one which could ultimately lead to joint vehicular platforms in the future.
“As evidenced by their SKYACTIV technologies and KODO — Soul of motion design, Mazda has proven that it always thinks of what is coming next for vehicles and technology, while still managing to stay true to its basic carmaking roots,” said Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda at the official press event announcing the collaboration. “In this way, Mazda very much practices what Toyota holds dear: making ever-better cars. I am delighted that our two companies can share the same vision and work together to make cars better.”
In reciprocation, Mazda President and CEO Masamichi Kogai was similarly complementary.
“Toyota is a company that has shown steadfast resolve in acting responsibly on global environmental issues and the future of manufacturing as a whole,” he said. “I also have tremendous respect for Toyota’s dedication on its pursuit of ever-better cars through ongoing innovation…I hope that by working together to make cars better, we can raise the value of cars in the eyes of consumers while also enhancing the manufacturing capabilities of our home, Hiroshima, and all the communities we are involved in as well.”
Here at Transport Evolved, we think the expanded long-term partnership between Toyota and Mazda will prove essential for Toyota in developing its next-generation hydrogen fuel cell technology, since the more production volume it can attain for a particular technology, the cheaper that technology becomes.
Its current hydrogen fuel cell technology — as demonstrated in the soon-to-launch 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan — is still far too expensive to be considered ready for mass-market production. The hydrogen fuel cell stack used in the 2016 Mirai for example, is currently hand-built in a painstakingly complex and and costly process. As a consequence, the cost to Toyota for each hydrogen fuel cell it makes is somewhere around $50,000 per vehicle.
By 2020, Toyota hopes to have developed its next-generation hydrogen fuel cell technology for market, thanks to an ongoing collaboration with BMW on future fuel technology as well as a recently-announced special stock designed to help raise the funds it needs to develop that technology. The addition of Mazda in this partnership ensures that when its next-generation technology has been developed, Toyota has an additional willing buyer for it.
Moreover, it helps Toyota cement hydrogen fuel cell technology as a next-step for the auto industry, which is currently split between battery electric and hydrogen electric road maps.
Talking of plug-in vehicles, while Toyota will be sharing its Plug-in Prius hybrid technology with Mazda as part of the new agreement, we don’t expect to see Mazda do much with it. In fact, given the fact that Toyota relied on a former partnership with Tesla Motors to develop its last production electric vehicle — the 2012-2014 Toyota RAV4 EV — we think it’s unlikely that Mazda will produce much in the way of plug-in vehicles moving forward either.
Is Mazda’s new partnership with Toyota a good thing for future car technologies? Which side do you think has the better deal — and what will the reaction be from the rest of the auto industry?
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