toyota inaba.automotiveIT

In 2011, Toyota’s Toyoda (right) and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer agreed to cooperate (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota’s top North American executive said the carmaker will likely engage in more alliances and partnerships to meet customer demands.

"When you ask the question”¦'What do customers want?' most people in business today will answer with one word: Everything!” said Yoshi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America.

“Even the world’s largest automakers are finding that hard to deliver totally by themselves,” he said in a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago earlier this month.

Toyota used to prefer an independent approach to business, Inaba said, “but that’s changing in a major way.”

He said the group’s CEO, Akio Toyoda, is “reaching out” to other companies to make sure Toyota can deliver what customers want.

In an overview of tie-ups concluded in the last 21 months, Inaba noted that Toyota has

  • Forged an alliance with electric-vehicle specialist Tesla to market an electric RAV4 small SUV
  • Teamed up with Ford to develop hybrid systems for pickups and small SUVs
  • Partnered with software giant Microsoft to better connect cars to Cloud-based services
  • Started work with chipmaker Intel to improve in-car touch, gesture and voice technologies
  • Formed a partnership with BMW to jointly develop lithium-ion batteries.
Said Inaba: “There is more to come from Toyota, a lot more.”

Carmakers have in recent years partnered in a growing number of areas. For example, Toyota and France’s PSA/Peugeot-Citroen are jointly building small cars in the Czech Republic; PSA and Mitsubishi are doing the same; Fiat is building cars for Ford; and several car companies are sharing engines and other core technologies.

toyota microsoft.automotiveIT

In 2011, Toyota’s Toyoda (right) and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer agreed to cooperate (Photo: Toyota)

Now, however, far-reaching changes to the automotive landscape are forcing carmakers to look outside the industry to other sectors, notably consumer electronics.

The reason: buyers increasingly want their cars to have the latest infotainment and connectivity, functions that traditionally came to their vehicles years after they entered living rooms.

“You will see more automotive alliances as carmakers stretch to meet the growing needs of consumers,” Inaba said.

In the area of in-car IT, the Toyota executive said his company was developing better voice recognition systems that will helpcombat driver distraction. Other technologies on Toyota’s to-do list include:

  •  iPad-type consoles
  •  wave switches that operate touchpads
  •  cameras that replace inner and outer rear-view mirrors
  •  new glass technologies that block sun rays
  •  steering-wheel health monitors.
Said Inaba: “We’re entering an era of innovation that will significantly alter transportation in the 21st century.”

-By Arjen Bongard