Toyota and Mazda are taking electrified vehicles seriously enough to jointly invest $1.6 billion in a U.S. plant
Toyota Motor Corp. will also be taking a 5 percent share of Japanese competitor Mazda Motor Corp.
The U.S. location will be named later, but it will have the capacity to produce 300,000 vehicles a year and employ about 4,000 workers. The new plant is scheduled to start operations in 2021.
While never a fan of electric vehicles or foreign companies, President Donald Trump was enthusiastic enough to tweet about the news. It will be a “great investment in American manufacturing,” he posted in Twitter.
At a new conference in Tokyo, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said that the race for bringing alternatives to internal combustion engine vehicles is on – and the competitive climate is widening.
“There will be new rivals appearing – Apple, Google – these are IT companies, we also need to compete with them, too,” Toyoda said.
“What’s different from the past is that there are no nautical charts for us to follow. It’s without precedent,” he said.
Toyoda took the reins of a new electric car division that Toyota started late last year. His company has been best known for embracing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hybrids, with EVs being down on the list.
Mazda is in a similar position. Its vehicles with fuel efficient gasoline engines, improved by its Skyactiv technology, have won the company a few Environmental Protection Agency top fuel economy nods. However, the company doesn’t have any hybrids or EVs in the U.S. market.
In November, Akira Marumoto, Mazda’s executive vice president, said that the two companies had been in discussions about working together on electrified vehicles. They had also talked about sharing hybrid systems and compact car production in Mexico, he said.
The companies face regulatory pressures in Europe and Asia, especially China, to bring in more EVs. The U.S. is likely to soften the fuel economy and emissions mandate next year, but U.S. consumers are known for being interested in the technology.
The Toyota chief’s reference to Apple and Google is a good one for that automaker. Besides a corporate commitment to sustainability, Toyota sees itself as a leader in advanced vehicle technologies like artificial intelligence. Other automakers are adding connected, autonomous features, but Toyota likes to see itself as the top developer of automated vehicles and technologies of the future.