Toyota invests in US car-sharing company

October 28, 2016

Leading Japanese car-maker Toyota Motor Corp has invested a reported USD 10 million in the U.S. car-sharing company Getaround, Reuters said on Friday.

A popular carsharing service in Germany

A popular carsharing service in Germany

The deal was done through the company’s investment fund, Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership set up in 2015 to invest in startups working on Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and hydrogen power.

The car sharing service, founded in San Francisco, US, was launched to the public in 2011 and has been available in San Francisco, Chicago and other US cities since 2013. It offers drivers the opportunity to rent cars from private owners in return for payment.  Owners earn 60 per cent commission on the rental prices they set. The company says it now has around 200,000 members.

According to Reuters, Toyota’s investment comes as automakers “seek to shore up their presence in new technology sectors amid growing competition from transport start-ups”.

Automakers have been scrambling to partner with tech firms to head off competition from self-driving cars and car sharing services that threaten to eventually trim demand for car ownership,” the report said.

Other companies in the automotive sector have shown interest in similar services in recent years.  General Motors Co set up its own car-sharing service, Maven, in January this year. Around the same time, Volkswagen transferred its own service called Quicar, set up in 2011, to Dutch project Greenwheels in which it has a 60 per cent share.  Audi has recently also announced plans to launch a similar service in 2017.

Source: Reuters

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Toyota pioneers recycling technology as global copper supply faces exhaustion

April 28, 2014

With only an estimated 40 years’ worth of minable copper reserves remaining worldwide. Global supplies are under threat and copper use is on the rise. Copper is increasingly being used for power transmission lines and other purposes in emerging nations, raising concerns in the near future copper prices will soar. Copper currently accounts for almost half of a vehicle’s wiring assembly, which extends between 3 and 5 kilometers and weighs 10 kilograms, excluding the plastic covering and other components. The wire harness is used for various electronic controls, including brakes. To counter future difficulties in supply the Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota . has developed a pioneering technology to recycle copper from vehicles amid fears that the global supply of the resource will eventually run out.  Toyota aims to stem the outflow of the valuable resource through its recycling technology The recycling process involves crushing a vehicle’s wiring assembly and sorting the copper by examining differences in buoyancy and using magnets. The recycling technology produces copper with a purity of 99.96 percent that can be reused in new automobiles, Toyota said. Until now, the copper removal procedure had to be done manually due to the complex structure of the wire assembly, or harness. The enormous costs for domestic recycling forced Toyota to export car components containing copper to recyclers in countries such as China where labor costs are lower. Toyota has made arrangements to collect wire harnesses from auto-dismantling companies. Autoparts maker Yazaki Corp. will produce new wire harnesses using the recycled copper. Toyota started its copper recycling project in 2013. Since then over 200,000 Toyota vehicles have used recycled copper for part of their wire harnesses. The automaker says it plans to increase annual production of recycled copper to about 1,000 tons, enough for about 2 million cars, by 2016. Source: The Asahi Shinbun   TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds. For translation and interpreting services in Japanese, please visit oursister site, The Japanese Connection.   Members of: ATCITIProz See our LinkedIn profile or visit us on Twitter


Japanese carmakers fortunes on rebound after listening to European customers’ demands

September 26, 2013

 Japanese automakers sales have suffered badly over the last few years while  South Korean rivals Hyundai and Kia have flourished. In August, Hyundai even eclipsed Nissan, the most European of the Japanese brands, to become the second best-selling Asian badge in Europe in the year to date after Toyota. However,  Japanese carmakers are fighting back by cutting costs and investing their profits from a weaker yen to ensure a strong European growth over the next few years.

Handicapped by earthquakes, tsunamis and floods that disrupted their supply chains around the world two years ago, companies including Mazda and Toyota initially focused on retaining their solid positions in North America, not wanting to adapt their U.S.-centric models for a European clientele.

As a result European sales dwindled, Japanese car manufacturers are now taking steps to win back business in the competitive European market, characterised as being  the most demanding market in terms of fuel efficiency, design, handling and build quality.   Their break through has been to introduce new models with smaller fuel-efficient diesel engines and smart interiors.

“Business has turned around. If you talk to most of the auto companies, it’s doom and gloom but our story is the exact opposite,” said Jeff Guyton, head of Mazda in Europe, in an interview at Frankfurt’s auto show, which ends this week.

Vehicle sales for the brand rose 11 percent in the eight months through August amid a European market that shrank by 5 percent, and average revenue per car sold is on the rise.

“We had the best fiscal first quarter in at least 10 years,” Guyton said.

At the Frankfurt auto show the  new Mazda3 was also unveiled, a compact fuel-efficient car that is set to compete with Volkswagen’s Golf. Mazda has already enjoyed success with its popular CX-5 crossover, which help lift European turnover since it launched last April.

Japanese carmakers have long profited from their reputation for reliability, but were upstaged when Hyundai and Kia brought out a range of stylish, affordable cars tailored to European tastes with extra-long warranties of five or even seven years. This helped the two South Koreans car giants attract European sales away from rivals such as Toyota.

“Japanese carmakers (sic) fundamentally missed the point about European design and interior quality,” said Mark Hall, who left the Japanese carmaker after 20 years to run Hyundai’s European marketing operations in 2010.

While the market share of Kia and Hyundai jumped to 6.1 percent last year in Europe from 3 percent in 2008, Japan’s seven traditional brands slipped to 11.8 from 13.7 percent.

Japan’s carmakers are now fighting back, however, improving handling and rolling out more wagons, a body style that is popular among company car owners in many parts of Europe.

Toyota is currently launching its Auris Touring Sports estate, while Honda will bring early next year the Civic Tourer, a model developed for the first time by a European and equipped with rear adaptive suspension to meet local demands for a sportier ride.

The Japanese carmakers have funded these changes by slimming down their operations. Toyota, for example, shifted all Auris production to its UK plant and moved some production of the Corolla sedan to Turkey from Japan and South Africa.

“At the same time that the weakness of the Japanese carmakers was being exploited heavily by the rapidly growing Koreans, the Japanese were busy putting their entire cost base to the test,” said Ernst & Young’s senior automotive advisory partner Peter Fuss.

Japan’s carmakers, who like to tout their expertise in hybrids and electric cars, are also following European trends by finally investing in a competitive lineup of diesel vehicles which constitute half the European market.

Toyota will now procure from BMW small 1.6 liter diesels, a popular European size that was missing from its engine range. Honda introduced its own 1.6 liter i-DTEC diesel for the European market, which it says will help provide a further boost to sales of its CR-V crossover and Civic hatch.

Mazda’s Guyton sees no reason to be downbeat despite figures that showed Europe’s new car market in the first eight months shrank to the lowest level recorded since 1990.

“Two years ago we structured our business to make a profit contribution to the company at 100 yen to the euro and 20 percent less volume than we have right now,” he said.”Now I’ve got new product, higher revenue and 130 yen to the euro, so we are contributing significantly to the company.”

Source: The Asahi Shinbun

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Japanese hybrid car sales booming

April 19, 2013

World wide sales of  Toyota’s gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles have surpassed 5 million in a milestone for a technology that was initially greeted with skepticism.

Toyota’s Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada hailed it as a great “ achievement for this technology to have grown this widespread”. Uchiyamada known as “the father of the Prius” for having led the team that developed the hit model recalled that initially expectations were very low for the hybrid to catch on. The Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car went into production in 1997. Gas-electric hybrids deliver fuel efficiency by switching back and forth between a gasoline engine and electric motor, depending on speed and other driving conditions, and recharge as they travel. The first Prius production plan called for only 1,000 cars a month, Uchiyamada recalled how he had to beg to raise it to that from a proposed 300 a month. But when the Prius was announced, people flocked to dealers in Japan to place their orders even though there wasn’t even a sample model to view in the showrooms.

Marketing experts had warned that Americans would likely not want a car like the Prius because gas prices were then relatively low however when  the Prius debuted in the U.S., it was met with enthusiasm by people Uchiyamada called “opinion leaders,” including Hollywood stars. Since then, gas prices have skyrocketed and nations around the world are struggling to deal with pollution and global warming leading to increased demand for hybrid vehicles.

Toyota’s hybrid cars now account for 14 percent of its global sales and 40 percent of its sales in Japan. Toyota now sells 19 different hybrid car models and one plug-in hybrid, and is promising 18 new hybrids from now through December 2015.

“Toyota has led the world on cost-effective fuel-saving hybrid technology for more than a decade, but the competition is really heating up,” said David Friedman, senior engineer and deputy director of the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. The organization believes that Honda overall offers greener cars, despite Toyota’s hybrid success.“To stay ahead of the pack on hybrids,” he said, “they will need to focus their hybrids on boosting fuel economy further and cutting costs, while picking up the pace in innovation in their conventional and electric cars.”

The big growth in auto sales is coming these days from emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India, where hybrids have yet to catch on because of higher prices compared with gasoline-powered autos. Uchiyamada agrees that costs will have to come down. But he said such nations were also growing concerned about energy efficiency and emissions and they need to offer incentives, or subsidies, for consumers so they can buy hybrids. “Hybrids have now become a core technology,” he said. “I believe there is a lot more room for this technology to grow.”

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Sources include The Japan Times, The Daily Yomiuri

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Booming Japanese Car production in Thailand boosts shipping companies fortunes

February 22, 2013

Thailand became Toyota’s third biggest global production hub last year due to Toyota’s success in selling Thai-made vehicles to Middle East and Latin American countries, is fueling a boom for international shipping companies.
Nippon Yusen K.K., the world’s biggest operator of the roll-on, roll-off ships and Toyota’s biggest customer, forecasts it will carry 3.45 million vehicles this year, the most in five years. Another shipping fleet Mitsui O.S.K. which ships for Nissan and Honda has also predicted record volume for cars.

Toyota currently has three factories in Thailand and other Japanese car manufacturers are investing heavily in Thailand, both Honda and Nissan plan to spend a combined $850 million to boost capacity in the country this year. All of them use the country as an export base for other developing countries, in contrast to China, where they produce purely for the domestic market with 750,000  vehicles  produced last year  in China by Toyota alone.

“Thailand is a flourishing market for shipping lines,” said Ryota Himeno, an analyst at Barclays Securities Japan Ltd. “Its ports have been upgraded. It’s also close to emerging economies in Asia.” Other international car companies including Ford and Hyundai also use low-cost vehicle production hubs in countries such as Thailand and India, boosting the need to ship vehicles to import markets such as Australia and New Zealand.

The global fleet of car-carrying vessels such as the so-called roll-on, roll-off ships, or RoRo, increased to 730 vessels as of this month, compared with 700 at the end of 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Nippon Yusen, also known as NYK, plans to increase its fleet of car carriers to 130 by March 2017, from 121 at the end of last March. In October, it ordered four new vessels, which are due to be completed by 2015. These vessels will be capable of transiting the Panama Canal when the third set of wider locks becomes operational. Each will be about 200 meters long, and capable of carrying 7,000 vehicles.

“NYK expects the worldwide demand for pure car and truck carrier transport to steadily expand,” the company said in an Oct. 15 statement. NYK’s ships call at Thailand as many as 150 times a year, spokesman Koji Sasaki said.
Thailand’s total vehicle output may rise 30 percent to 3 million units by the end of 2015, according to Macquarie Group Ltd. Toyota, which has three factories in the country, exported almost half of all the vehicles it built there last year.

“The biggest growth driver for Thailand’s automotive industry is the expansion of export capacity,” Macquarie analysts Chak Reungsinpinya and Clive Wiggins wrote in a report in December. “Thailand is now one of the fastest-growing global auto markets and production centers.” Thailand has fewer labor issues compared with China or India, said Koji Endo, an auto analyst at Advanced Research Japan, who referred to the Southeast Asian country as the region’s Detroit.

“Thailand’s emergence as a car-export nation is a big boost to Japanese shipping lines,” said Minoru Matsuno, president of Value Search Asset Management Co., a Tokyo-based investment advisory firm.

Source: The Japan Times

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