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.