Last week Akio Toyoda (Toyota CEO) and Masamichi Kogai (Mazda CEO) signed a cooperative agreement which sees both companies sharing resources for future products. Mazda can offer Toyota its advanced SkyActiv engine technology while in return Toyota can provide plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technologies.
The partnership could also lead to shared platform development, Scion (Toyota’s youth brand in North America) already have a reskinned Mazda2 sedan in the shape of the iA. What does this mean for both companies? Well for Mazda it’s a huge benefit in terms of driving down costs. Mazda is only a small company, last year Mazda sold 1.4 million cars worldwide, a fraction of what Toyota pumps out. For Toyota having cars on platforms developed by Mazda could bring a much needed boost in driver involvement.
Akio Toyoda hasn’t been shy to admit Toyota’s cars aren’t the sportiest available and he’s been trying to change Toyota’s image. The 86 was one of his ideas to change people’s perception of Toyota. By teaming up with Mazda who arguably produce some of the best looking and driver focused Japanese cars, Toyota’s cars could benefit from a Hiroshima-sourced spark of life.
While Toyota has been concentrating on hybrid and hydrogen technology, their ‘standard’ engines have suffered and competition are now generations ahead. If Toyota are able to adopt Mazda’s award-winning SkyActiv technology to their standard engine range, that’d be the first step to bringing life into their cars.
Platform sharing will be important too. It won’t work if Mazda gets platforms from Toyota, that’d be Mazda going backwards. However if they’re able to access some of Toyota’s rear-wheel drive platforms on the other hand, then that could be a whole other story. Luckily, first batch of rumours suggest the platform sharing plan is going in the right direction; that the next generation Vitz/Yaris will be based on the Mazda2 platform.
Toyoda also praised Mazda’s Kodo design language. Perhaps the most crucial factor for Toyota to improve on, Toyota could definitely learn a thing or two in design from Mazda.
On Mazda’s side, cost is the largest benefit by tying up with a giant such as Toyota. Last year Mazda’s R&D budget was $900m, about a tenth of Toyota’s R&D budget. A small company such as Mazda can’t go at it alone, especially in a globalising world. It’s teamed up with Ford, partnered with Fiat to develop the MX-5, and now is with Toyota for product and technology development. By working closely with Toyota, who are leaders in hybrid and hydrogen technology, Mazda can reduce cots of R&D into these areas.
Both CEOs made it very clear this would not be a capital tie-up, Mazda are especially wary not to do the whole Ford thing again. But like other big automotive names, both companies realise the need to work together to reduce cots and fast track green tech. This partnership could lead to some very interesting results in the future, if done well. Hopefully this partnership lasts longer than Toyota’s previous relationships with Tesla, Aston Martin, and Ford. What do you think of the Mazda-Toyota partnership?