What does Toyota’s announced intent to invest heavily in Uber mean for a Kiwi taxi industry that has shown particularly loyal allegiance to Japan’s top car brand?
THEY represent a significant component of Toyota’s core clientele in this country – but shouldn’t be concerned about the brand’s intention to involve with a business rival that is eroding their business.
We’re talking about New Zealand’s taxi drivers, perhaps the highest-profile ambassadors for the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Prius in this country.
An announcement just in from Toyota Motor Company in Japan might well be causing disquiet on the rank – but the brand’s local distributor has hastened to alleviate any local concerns.
The decision by TMC to take a financial stake in Uber, though described as being part of a global strategic alliance that places the Japanese giant on pole position for the lion’s share of vehicle leases to drivers of the ride sharing company, will have no bearing on New Zealand.
Overseas’ experts are deciphering this as a bid to to hedge Toyota’s bets against a slump in the conventional taxi business in which the company has a large slice of vehicle sales worldwide – especially in Japan, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
However, a spokesman for Palmerston North-headquartered TNZ says nothing will change here.
"We have a strong relationship with taxi companies here in New Zealand,” Morgan Dilks told MotoringNetwork.
“We are not one of the markets included in the discussions with Uber on collaboration".
Toyota Japan said yesterday that it and Uber had entered into a memorandum of understanding to explore collaboration, starting with trials in countries where ridesharing is expanding. It did not name those markets.
It said that as part of the partnership, its financial and investment arm, Toyota Financial Services Corporation and Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership, were making a strategic investment in Uber.
Announcing the move, Toyota senior managing officer Shigeki Tomoyama said: “Ridesharing has huge potential in terms of shaping the future of mobility. Through this collaboration with Uber, we would like to explore new ways of delivering secure, convenient and attractive mobility services to customers.”
Mr Tomoyama is also president of a newly created Toyota branch, the Connected Company, that has been formed to pursue modern transport developments.
Uber chief business officer Emil Michael said Uber was excited that Toyota was making a strategic investment in Uber as part of a broader global partnership.
“Toyota vehicles are among the most popular cars on the Uber platform worldwide and we look forward to collaborating with Toyota in multiple ways going forward, starting with the expansion of our vehicle financing efforts,” he said.
Under the arrangements, Toyota Financial Services will create new leasing arrangements for Uber drivers who can then cover their payments through their earnings.
“The leasing period will be flexible and based on driver needs,” the company said. “This initiative builds on Uber’s current vehicle solutions programme.”
Toyota and Uber also said they would explore collaboration in a variety of other areas, such as developing in-car apps that support Uber drivers, sharing knowledge and accelerating their respective research efforts, and establishing a special fleet program to sell Toyota and Lexus vehicles to Uber drivers.
General Motors and Volkswagen have also recently announced investments in ride- and car-sharing companies, with GM spending $US500 million in a slice of Lyft while also creating car-sharing company Maven to be rolled out in the US. VW has invested $US300 million in small ride sharing outfit Gett.