Toyota Motor Corp. is preparing for a potential future where people don't buy cars.
That's behind the hefty investments that the company has made in ride-hailing providers, most prominently the $1 billion that it poured into Southeast Asian leader Grab. Toyota sees the partnership as an opportunity to get Grab to buy more of its cars and to push services like insurance and maintenance, Shigeki Tomoyama, the global head of Toyota's connected car division, said in an interview this month in Nagoya, Japan.
The pact with Singapore-based Grab forms the Asia prong of Toyota's strategy to tie up with the strongest ride-hailing companies in each region, and then integrate its hardware and software into their services. Toyota is seeking an edge over rivals as carmakers are positioning for an uncertain future in which automated driving and the sharing economy threaten to displace the traditional model of vehicle ownership.
"We recognize that the mobility-as-a-service players control vast numbers of drivers and users, and are gaining supremacy over their local transportation systems," said Tomoyama, who now sits on Grab's board. "It's not realistic for us to try and set up a car-rental or ride-hailing service from scratch in a market like the U.S. or Asia."
Tomoyama wants Grab to rent almost exclusively Toyota vehicles to its drivers, from an estimate of about three in five of its cars currently, Tomoyama said.