Toyota prepares to open its powertrain tech to rivals

Toyota to Increase R&D Facilities in China

Toyota, manufacturer of the most popular hybrid vehicle Prius, has announced it will allow its rivals to use its power train technology in the hope that it will boost sales and speed up the industry’s shift to lower-emission vehicles.

It said it would now consider selling complete powertrain modules, which includes engines, transmissions and other drive components, to its competitors.

Toyota, which is now the world’s second largest automaker after falling below VW earlier this year, also announced last week that it would expand its petrol hybrid technology.

The prospect of giving rivals access to ‘one-size-fits-all’ powertrains comes as cars are increasingly dependent on computerised components, making it easier to design similar parts across model ranges. The industry has moved on from competing largely on mechanical engineering.

That trend is likely to accelerate as car makers face pressure from regulators to cut car emissions even further and develop more long-range electric vehicles.

As cars become more like glorified computers, manufacturers are standardising many mechanical parts and competing more on style and packaging, giving drivers a greater range of features from automated parking to cockpit concierges.

For Toyota, this is a big departure from having a tightly-knit network of suppliers keeping much of their jointly developed technology exclusive so as to have an engineering competitive edge on rivals.

Toyota suppliers produce a lot of technology which can only be used by Toyota, said Toshiyuki Mizushima, president of Toyota’s powertrain company. We want to change that to a system where we develop technology with our suppliers at an earlier stage … so they can make that technology available to non-Toyota customers.

Mizushima noted that past versions of Toyota’s hybrid system didn’t fit other manufacturers’ cars, limiting suppliers’ options to sell to non-Toyota customers.

Powertrains combine parts often made separately by several independent parts makers, but Toyota’s are unique in that they are made by its group suppliers, allowing engineers at the automaker and its suppliers to collaborate in development.


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