Toyota and Suzuki are looking at an R&D partnership because they admit they're behind

The Chairman of Suzuki Motor Corporation, Osamu Suzuki, and the President of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, have convened at Toyota's Tokyo offices to declare plans to join hands regarding research and development. According to Toyoda, Toyota "hasn't been good at creating alliances," and its partnership with the small carmaker Daihatsu has been the most well-known collaboration so far. Perhaps the comment has a tinge of regret from Toyota and GM's NUMMI days in Fremont, especially as the statement released by Toyota says that "Toyota is conscious of the fact that it may be behind competitors in North America and Europe when it comes to the establishment of standardizations and partnership with other companies."

But as different technologies advance at breakneck speed and it is difficult for companies both big and small to stay competitive, let alone ahead of the game, Toyota is accepting the need for collaboration. Toyoda referred to passenger safety, environmental issues, automated driving, and hydrogen technology, all of which are key challenges for any carmaker looking to stay relevant, and all expensive to experiment with. Spreading the cost over more vehicles should help.

"We received an offer from Suzuki regarding collaboration possibilities on advanced and future technologies such as in information technology. Suzuki made a frank proposal to us, and in understanding that Toyota is facing the challenges which I had mentioned earlier, we thought that with the relationship between both companies, there is an opportunity for a business partnership to help solve such challenges. As such, we decided to explore such possibilities together," said Toyoda.

In the future, Daihatsu will still be Toyota's tool in emerging markets, but now Toyota could have access to Suzuki's small-car know-how. Osamu Suzuki acknowledges that "Suzuki's current business focuses on minivehicles in Japan and India," as Suzuki withdrew from the US and Canada in 2013. A joint effort will help Suzuki remain relevant, and as a manufacturer of predominantly small vehicles it has been focusing on competitive pricing more than cutting edge technology.

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