An alliance between Toyota Motor and Suzuki Motor could be a boon to both sides, helping the former gain ground in emerging markets such as India and giving the latter the engineering needed to compete in an increasingly high-tech industry.
Can’t go it alone
The two automakers said Wednesday they were discussing collaboration on environmental, safety and information technology.
Although Toyota President Akio Toyoda told a new conference that the idea of an alliance came together in just two business days after Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki got the ball rolling, there is more to the story. Suzuki’s next partner had been the subject of speculation since August 2015, when the Japanese maker of economy cars ended a capital and business relationship with Germany’s Volkswagen over management conflicts.
Though Chairman Suzuki had said publicly that his company would look to remain independent going forward, another senior executive had acknowledged that collaboration was “necessary” in some fields. Even in India, a successful market for Suzuki, environmental regulations are growing tougher, making investment in technology like hybrid drive systems essential. Rising incomes have also stoked demand for higher-end vehicles in such countries.
Finding a big automaker ally was seen as essential for Suzuki to ensure a presence in self-driving cars. While a Toyota or a Volkswagen has the financial strength to counter the challenge posed by Google and other tech giants in this field — Toyota’s annual research and development budget comes to around 1 trillion yen ($9.59 billion) — Suzuki, which spent just 130 billion yen on R&D in the year ended March 31, hardly stands a chance alone.
Toyota Motor’s status as a leader in environmentally friendly cars is under threat in the U.S., with global trailblazer California slated to tighten its emissions rules to stop favoring hybrids like the Japanese automaker’s flagship Prius.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said in a May earnings briefing that the electric-car maker plans to build an annual 1 million vehicles within four years. But what made many industry figures sit up and take notice was that the company had raked in $57 million from so-called ZEV credits.
Electric or bust
California requires zero-emissions vehicles to account for a certain percentage of automakers’ sales. Companies that cannot meet the target must pay fines or buy credits from peers that have exceeded the requirement. The mandate aims to spur broader adoption of cars with eco-friendly electric drive systems. Tesla has used credit sales to shore up a money-losing business.
Automakers are conscious of the rules in California, America’s largest car market. Despite Toyota’s green image, it will be hit hard by the change. The state has gradually tightened emissions regulations since they were first put into place back in 1990. It decided in 2012 to stop counting hybrids as zero-emissions vehicles as of 2018 — an edict covering the Prius.
Tesla fans continued to deluge the electric car maker with pre-orders for its new lower-cost Model 3 over the weekend, raising questions about the company’s ability to ramp up manufacturing to meet demand.
Elon Musk, Tesla’s chairman and co-founder, said on Sunday that it had received 276,000 orders worldwide for its $35,000 Model 3 by the end of Saturday, more than 18 months before the first deliveries will be made. If all those orders turned into actual purchases, Tesla would be in line for about $10bn in revenues from the Model 3, which will have a range of more than 215 miles.
The order count is more than double the number of Model S cars that Tesla has sold since introducing its luxury electric sedan in 2012 and tops the cumulative total amount of electric vehicles sold in China since 2008.
Hundreds of people lined up outside some North American Tesla stores on Thursday before the vehicle had even been unveiled, with a total of 115,000 reservations made by the time Mr Musk took to the stage at an event in Los Angeles later that evening. Each had to put down a refundable deposit of $1,000 to reserve their Model 3, which is scheduled to begin shipping by the end of 2017.
Mr Musk, who has said he was “fairly confident” of meeting that deadline, acknowledged that the larger than expected demand for the Model 3 could cause production challenges.
Toyohashi University of Technology and Taisei Corp. unveiled Friday what they say is the world’s first electric vehicle that runs without carrying a battery, using special tires that draw power from an electrified road surface.
In a driving test at the school in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, a small electric vehicle moved quietly on a test course in which two electrified steel paths were laid parallel beneath at the width of the vehicle. Steel wires were embedded into the tires to provide a conduit for the energy to drive the vehicle.
After driving the vehicle on the 30-meter-long course at the speed of about 10 kilometers per hour, Professor Takashi Ohira, who is involved in the vehicle’s development, said, “Acceleration was smooth, and the ride was comfortable.”
Regular electric vehicles are not suitable for long-distance driving due to the relatively small capacity of the batteries loaded on them.
The newly developed EV can only run on electrified roads.
Ohira said that if expressways are fitted with the technology, EVs can run a long distance. “We can then reduce the size of batteries for nonexpressway driving,” he said.
You’ve got to hand it to Elon Musk — he may be the one person out there with the cajones to start a flame war with Apple, and for good reason too.
Musk has been engaged in a hiring battle, pitting Tesla against Apple, as the latter has plans to throw its hat into the automotive industry and create its own electric car. Reports have surfaced, claiming Apple has been poaching Tesla engineers with signing bonuses over $250K and 60% bumps in salary.
Musk isn’t worried, though. Not even one bit. In fact, Tesla has not had to deal with the problem in any serious way, as Tesla is the top recruiter in talent.
“If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding,” Musk emphatically says.
Musk and company at Tesla noted that they jokingly call Apple the “Tesla Graveyard,” and that Apple only hires the engineers Tesla fired.
All jokes aside, Musk says it’s a good thing that Apple will be competitive:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a ride in several self-driving vehicles on the public roads in the capital on Saturday, showcasing the technology ahead of Tokyo Motor Show.
Abe tried auto-piloting vehicles from Toyota, Honda, and Nissan on the roads around Japan’s National Diet Building, as major international automakers compete with likes of Google and other IT firms to develop new types of cars with the goal of helping to reduce accidents by eradicating human error.
“I felt with my body that the Japanese technology is the world’s best,” Abe told reporters after riding the vehicles.
It was the first time that auto-piloting vehicles have run on ordinary roads in Japan. Read More
A partially electric car that can run on the sun’s power is coming to India in March.
The e2O is the latest offering from the Mahindra Group, which says it will meet its “5 Cs” framework: clean, convenient, connective, clever, and cost effective.
The four-seater e2O (pronounced “ee-too-oh” has already been certified as road-worthy.
Its range of 100 km (62 miles) is not especially impressive compared to American electric cars. But it is likely sufficient for the commutes of the city residents Mahindra Reva, the electric vehicle arm of the investment group, is targeting.
Reva used to sell a two-seater mini car, the REVAi, which it will stop selling to focus on the e2O, the Wall Street Journal reported. The e2O will be the only electric four-seater car in India. Read More