5 Japanese automakers join SoftBank-Toyota’s self-driving car JV

The development is significant since it marks an acceleration in the banding of automakers in an industry which is placing growing emphasis on offering vehicle services rather than selling cars to individual drivers.

On Friday, five Japanese automakers including Mazda Motor Corp and Suzuki Motor Corp, stated they would be investing 2% of their revenues in the on-demand, self-driving car service venture set up by SoftBank Corp and Toyota Motor Corp.

Subaru Corp, Suzuki, Isuzu Motors Ltd, Mazda, and Daihatsu, Toyota’s compact car unit, will each be investing $530,620 (57.1 million yen) in the venture, which has been dubbed as Monet, in return for a 2% stake in the JV.

Toyota and SoftBank will retain their respective 35% stakes in the company.

The development marks these five automakers joining Honda Motor Co Ltd and Hino Motors Ltd, Toyota’s truck-making operations, wherein each will have a stake of 10%.

Launched in October 2018, the venture plans to roll out on-demand bus and car services in Japan in 2020; the venture also plans to launch a services platform for electric vehicles in Japan in 2023 based on Toyota’s boxy “e-palette” multi-purpose vehicle.

Monet is building up members as it joins the ride-sharing sphere which is dominated by startups such as Uber Technologies Inc, Lyft Inc, and Didi Chuxing as traditional automakers band together to compete in an industry which is placing growing emphasis on offering vehicle services rather than selling cars to individual drivers.

Carmakers are increasingly collaborating with tech companies as they grapple with the massive investment and software expertise required to develop these new services for which demand has yet to be tested.

The new investment will see Subaru, Suzuki, and Mazda deepen their partnership with Toyota, as they have already agreed to tap its R&D prowess for EVs and other future vehicle technologies.

($1 = 107.6100 yen)

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