Toyota hired IBM and France's Dassault Systemes to create a computer system to design vehicles and the equipment and factories to build them.
The deal is worth an estimated $1 billion (E1.1 billion). It could help Toyota reduce product development time by months without sacrificing quality. And it could help Toyota meet its goal of 15 percent of global auto sales by the early 2010s. It has about 10 percent now.
Automakers have used elements of the technologies - notably digital car design - for years, but they haven't been linked on this scale. Global deployment across Toyota's 56 plants will be done in phases and is expected to take several years.
'This is one of the biggest software-services deals - if not the biggest - in the civilian sector,' said Kevin Prouty, analyst at AMR Research in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 'You are basically supplying a critical product development tool for an entire global organization, and driving it into your supply chain as well.'
Toyota will replace its own Togo computer design system with Dassault's CATIA three-dimensional modeling system. Much of the software work will be done by Dassault's US units, Delmia in Troy, Michigan, and Enovia in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Delmia will provide the tool set to create digital mockups of robots and machinery, manufacturing processes, ergonomic workstations and assembly lines used in Toyota factories.
Enovia will provide collaboration tools for Toyota employees and suppliers to access information.
IBM will provide hardware, software and other services. IBM markets CATIA and Delmia products.
Dassault works with 20 automakers, including PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. PSA and Toyota plan to build a E1.5 billion small-car plant in the Czech Republic to start production in 2005.
Dassault is Europe's No. 2 software provider behind SAP, with 2001 revenues of E746 million.