By on May 23, 2011


Last January, Toyota’s Prez Akio Toyoda visited CEO and cloud computing proselytizer extraordinaire Mark Benioff in Benioff’s sprawling compound on the Big Island of Hawaii.

After Toyoda got over the t-shirts and became used to the 6 foot 5 Benioff (who looks especially imposing next to a rather petite Toyoda), Benioff whipped out an iPad and showed Toyoda his idea of a Toyota Friend Network. What he had in mind was a giant mash-up of cloud-based telematics, CRM systems, pre- and aftersales dialog marketing, with a huge dose of Twitter (or “Chatter” as his proprietary system is called) and Facebook.

“I was really, really moved,” said Akio Toyoda today at a press conference at the Toyota Megaweb. He was so moved that 5 months later, Toyota, Microsoft, and formed a joint venture, capitalized with a moderate 1 billion yen ($12 million). The company is called Toyota Media Service Co., the product is called “Toyota Friend,” and it will be offered first in Japan, initially with Toyota’s EVs and plug-in hybrids due out by 2012.

Toyoda sees Toyota Friend as a network that connects cars, customers, dealers, manufacturers, with the added twist that the car can converse with the customer. Toyoda admitted that like many of us, on occasion he talks to the car when he has it on the test track or the race circuit. Now, the car can talk back.

Benioff sees Toyota Friend as a Facebook or Twitter on wheels. “The car that is plugged into the electricity is the car that is plugged into the network.”

At a demonstration today, a yet to be introduced Toyota plugin sends a tweet to the owner who forgot to connect the charger after he came back home. He has to run out, stick the charger into the car. The rest is done on auto. After a series of tweets, the car tweets back that it will commence charging at a TEPCO-aware 11pm.

The car could also send (dealers will love that) reminders to come to the scheduled inspection. A coupon for a discount oil change was included, electronically. Dealers will love that even more.

Dealers need to be showered with love from this service, because some dealers may eye that chatter between customer and manufacturer with suspicion, fearing disintermediation by Twitter.

Benioff talks well, but he tweets even better. He’s a walking Twitter-machine.

“Heading to for announcement with Toyota for later today!”

“ and Toyota make an important announcement today in Tokyo at MegaWeb.

During the press conference, Benioff whips out his iPad, aims it at himself and Toyoda and tweets:

“I am at the launch of Toyota Friend with my friend Akio Toyoda, ceo of Toyota.,” It’s most likely the first press conference in recorded history where the man on the podium single-handedly scoops the assembled press corps with a picture that is not quite up to print quality.

Did I mention disintermediation?

Let’s just hope Ray LaHood will not unfriend the service

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6 Comments on “Friend Your Toyota...”

  • avatar

    So is the salesforce guy Andre the Giant or is Akio just really small?

  • avatar

    In before the Hal9000 comments.

    The plug in reminder idea is pretty good.

  • avatar

    This is something Akio Toyoda in particular would be receptive to. Being that he is the founder of An net-centric/social media method of selling cars.

  • avatar


    OnStar sends me an email reminder when it’s time to have certain maintenance items done to my car. It will send me a report every month with my vital stats (miles to oil change, tire pressures, time left on my OnStar phone, etc.). This part works well.

    It’s supposed to set up my appointments automatically with my dealer of choice for maintenance items, but so far it hasn’t happened that way. I’m guessing the schlub they put in charge of such affairs at the dealer is probably burning the day Facebooking their friends, but unfortunately for them, I have several other sharp GM dealers I can go to for maintenance work.

    OnStar will survey you and ask you how you like the service. I generally like OnStar, but the automated appointment stuff isn’t happening, and I’ve let them know. We’ll see how long this will take to rectify…

  • avatar

    When I was still reading the IT journals Benioff and his seemed to get pretty good press. This deal with Toyota could work out well for both companies.

  • avatar

    Does Akio speak EN?

    Toyota social probably not the future.

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