The Hindu Business Line

Toyota unlocks its engine technology

May sell complete powertrain modules to rivals


Long guarded about what was beneath the hood of its pioneering Prius cars, Toyota Motor Corp plans to open up its powertrain technology to rivals, hoping this will boost sales and speed up the industry's shift to lower emission vehicles.

Announcing last week it would expand its gasoline hybrid technology developmen­t, the world's largest automaker said it would consider selling complete powertrain modules - engines,transmissi­ons and other drive components - to its competitor­s.

The prospect of giving rivals access to “one-size-fitsall" 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 will likely accelerate as automakers face pressure from regulators to further cut car emissions and develop more longrange electric vehicles.

As cars become more like glorified computers, automakers are standardis­ing many mechanical parts and competing more on style and packaging - giving drivers a bigger 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.

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.

“Until now, we couldn't sell the same inverter used in Toyota's previous hybrid system to other customers because it wouldn't fit the motor, or the voltage was different,” said Yoshifumi Kato, executive director of engineerin­g R&D at DensoCorp, Toyota's biggest supplier.

“We can avoid this issue if suppliers can sell the entire system.”

The move should help auto parts companies such as Denso andAisin spread their customer base and compete better against global rivals including Robert Bosch and Continenta­l. Currently, Toyota accounts for around half the annual sales at Denso and Aisin.

Nissan Motor Co this year launched the Infiniti QX30 luxury compact crossover using engines and other parts developed and made by Daimler AG's Mercedes and its suppliers. Toyota already shares components for Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd's Subaru BRZ sports car under a joint developmen­t agreement.

In opening up its proprietar­y technology, Toyota is acknowledg­ing the escalating costs of R&D, as global automakers vie to develop hybrid and all-electric cars, self-driving cars and cars connected to mobile technology.

 ??  ?? A cutaway view of a Toyota Prius Hybrid displayed at the North American Internatio­nal Auto Show in Detroit (file photo)REUTERS
A cutaway view of a Toyota Prius Hybrid displayed at the North American Internatio­nal Auto Show in Detroit (file photo)REUTERS

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