Exciting news for follows of Japanese car-world romance! Mazda, makers of cars that are continually cool and fun to drive, just announced their engagement to Toyota, makers of cars that used to be cool and fun to drive but now mostly aren’t although they’re trying to get their mojo back. Congratulations to the happy couple!
It turns out Mazda and Toyota’s tie-up was for more than just the Scion iA, itself an unfortunately re-nosed Mazda2. The two automakers announced today in Tokyo that they’ will form a “long-term partnership” with the goal of more collaboration, technology-sharing and spreading out development costs.
Here’s the report from Automotive News:
The announcement comes amid media reports that said the two companies are exploring numerous projects. Among them would be an arrangement in which Toyota supplies Mazda with its hydrogen fuel cell system and plug-in hybrid technology, in exchange for receiving Mazda’s fuel-efficient Skyactiv gasoline and diesel engine technology.
In addition to the Mexico-built iM, Toyota already supplies hybrid tech to Mazda for the Japan-only Mazda3 hybrid. Otherwise, the partnership announcement was light on details, with neither company’s CEO willing to comment a capital tie-up or a timeline for future projects. But here’s how Toyota’s Akio Toyoda broke it down:
“This is an engagement announcement, not a marriage announcement,” Toyoda said.
Sounds like Toyoda’s a little commitment-phobic, doesn’t it? At least he liked it enough that he put a ring on it.
I know the immediate Internet knee-jerk reaction to this news will be to carp about how “beige” Mazda is about to get, but I actually look at this as good news for both companies. It’s tough for a small, independent automaker like Mazda to survive in today’s ultra-conglomerated, ultra-globalized world. Frankly, it’s a miracle it exists post-Ford at all, let alone has the insanely strong lineup of cars it has.
In order to thrive, Mazda has to make agreements with larger automakers, like the one it’s doing here with Toyota or the roadster deal it’s doing with Fiat Chrysler. And on Mazda’s end, this will help with fuel cell and hybrid tech. I don’t see Mazda getting beige-ified just from doing business with Toyota.
As for Toyota, in recent years the company has announced partnerships with BMW, Subaru and now Mazda. They certainly know how to pick good bedfellows. And as Autonews states, there’s actually a lot Toyota can stand to learn from Mazda:
For Toyota, the deal also gives it a front-row seat to study Mazda. Toyota engineers say privately that their company has been quietly benchmarking the comparatively tiny Japanese rival, fascinated by its uncanny ability to churn out high-quality vehicles on a shoestring budget — and to do so profitably from high-cost Japan.
I just better get an invitation to the wedding, if one happens.
Photos credit Shutterstock, AP
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