BEIJING -- Toyota Motor Corp. is taking an unprecedented route to meet China's stringent green car quotas: Its showrooms will sell an electric vehicle without the Japanese company's distinctive triple-oval logo.
Instead, it will feature the label of GAC Motor, Toyota's Chinese partner, and will be built around GAC's lower-cost technology.
The move -- a first for Toyota -- will give GAC access to the Japanese automaker's stringent quality control, prestige and sales channel. For Toyota, it presents a quick way to meet Beijing's requirements that such vehicles represent 10 percent of an auto manufacturer's production by 2019.
According to two company executives familiar with the matter, Toyota plans to start selling the GAC Toyota ix4 by the end of the year. The vehicle is a battery-powered compact crossover based on GAC's Trumpchi GS4, and has been in development for two years.
Selling a car derived from a Chinese partner's vehicle would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. But the idea gained momentum at Toyota because of the Chinese government's push to get more EVs on the road, the executives said.
The government mandates have spurred other new alliances, such as Ford Motor Co.'s agreement to develop electric vehicles with Zotye Automobile Co.
Ford is waiting for regulatory approval for its partnership, which calls for designing and manufacturing several jointly developed no-frills EVs and selling them through a new China-only brand.
It wasn't immediately clear which parts of the ix4 Toyota would provide, or which company's design standards were used. Quality experts say GAC cars rate relatively high.
According to Jeff Cai, a Beijing-based senior director at JD Power & Associates, some of GAC's vehicles, such as the Trumpchi GS8 crossover, already stack up well head-to-head with vehicles marketed by global automakers.
"The GS4 is a good car with acceptable quality," Cai said. He added that the GS4 ranked No. 1 among Chinese brands and No. 3 among all brands for initial quality in the compact crossover category.
One question, however, is GAC cars' longer-term reliability and dependability, Cai said.
Under the new Chinese regulations taking effect next year, carmakers must amass credits for so-called new-energy vehicles equivalent to 10 percent of annual sales by 2019. That level rises to 12 percent for 2020. New-energy vehicles are defined as all-electric battery and plug-in electric hybrid cars.