Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, met today with Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, at the BMW Group headquarters in Munich to announce the planned expansion of their existing cooperation that started last year.
The BMW Group and Toyota Motor collaboration is the latest example of automakers trying to decrease the astronomical cost of developing more efficient vehicles that are mandated by increasingly stringent fuel economy or CO2 regulations.
The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at a long-term strategic collaboration in four fields: joint development of a fuel cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle, collaboration on powertrain electrification and joint research and development on lightweight technologies.
The agreement follows the memorandum of understanding announced by the two companies on 1 December 2011. (See BMW and Toyota to Jointly Research Lithium Ion Batteries) Current production Toyota hybrids use nickel metal hydride batteries, an older but thoroughly proven technology. Toyota has been reluctant to use the newer, more expensive technology, much loved by environmentalist, but basically shunned thus far by mainstream car buyers. Nevertheless, Toyota is introducing its first generation of lithium ion batteries in the Prius Plug-in hybrid just on sale in the U.S.
The BMW Group and Toyota Motor research project under that agreement is concentrating on increasing the performance and capacity of lithium-ion battery cells with new combinations of materials for cathodes, anodes and electrolytes.
In addition to the collaborative research agreement, Toyota Motor Europe and BMW Group now have a contract for BMW to supply 1.6-liter and 2-liter diesel engines to TME starting in 2014. Since Toyota does not produce Lexus luxury models in Europe, no direct marketing conflict is immediately apparent. The rising value of the Yen has forced a reluctant Toyota to increase production and sourcing of components outside of its home market in Japan where it is a major contributor to Japanese economic and social well as the biggest automaker operating there.
Toyota is the global leader in hybrid sales, of course, a growing segment the German companies once renowned for engineering leadership completely missed. As a result, with arguably the exception of Honda, which also had an early hybrid program with its Insight, all companies have been playing catch up to Toyota’s impressive green image that resulted from the overwhelming success of the Prius hybrid and subsequent Toyota and Lexus derivatives.
Also today, Reithofer and Toyoda signed a Joint Statement to reconfirm their companies’ shared intention to strengthen the long-term, strategic collaboration between them.
Reithofer said, “We aim to further strengthen our competitive position in sustainable future technologies. We signed a MoU to this effect today. Toyota and the BMW Group share the same strategic vision of sustainable individual future mobility.
Toyoda added, “BMW and Toyota both want to make ever-better cars. We respect each other. That is why we already can take the next step together.” He went on to say, “Toyota is strong in environment-friendly hybrids and fuel cells … I believe BMW’s strength is developing sports cars. I get so excited thinking about the cars that will result from this relationship.”