By on June 25, 2012

Today, Germany’s Spiegel Magazin reports what we suspected since last December: “BMW and Toyota edge closer.”  Both, says the magazine, will “enter a close partnership that transcends the projects that were agreed in the past.”

Last December, Toyota and BMW announced “a long-term technological partnership.”  Ostensibly, it was about developing batteries together, and about BMW supplying diesel engines. In March, the happy couple announced that they indeed are developing batteries, and that BMW indeed will supply diesel engines.

Toyota’s people in Europe had complained that one of the reasons for Toyota’s measly sales in Europe is the lack of diesel mills. Around half of the cars sold in Europe are oil burners. Hybrid-happy does not have the bandwidth to tinker with its own diesel engine and will buy them instead from BMW.

For hybrids and EVs, BMW currently has another alliance with PSA Peugeot Citroen. That alliance is said to be coming apart. PSA is short of money, and it entered a partnership with GM, BMW wants out. “Toyota is a leader in hybrid technology,” writes Der Spiegel, “in contrast to the financially underpowered French, Toyota has money to invest into new technologies.”

BMW needs a strong partner. Investments in new technologies need high volumes for a return in an appreciable time. BMW, or for that matter Daimler, don’t have that volume. Only a mass market manufacturer can provide that scale. Daimler cozied-up to Nissan and Renault, BMW cozies-up to Toyota.

In the new “broadened partnership”  Toyota will supply hybrid systems and fuel cell technology to BMW, The Nikkei [sub] heard over the weekend. Supposedly, an announcement will come within the next days.

Toyota spokesfolk in Tokyo maintain strict radio silence when it comes to that matter, saying that they currently have nothing to say. When something is bunk, they usually say so.  Toyota invited the crème of international business reporters on a plant tour in Tsutsumi on July 3rd to show how the plant deals with anticipated power shortages.  It would be a handy occasion for a surprise appearance of Herr Reithofer and Toyoda-san. Just thinking …

What will BMW offer in return? The talk in Tokyo is that the Bavarians proposed to share their expertise in developing carbon fiber bodies.  BMW is heavily invested in industry leader SGL Carbon. Volkswagen also bought shares.  However, says the scuttlebutt, Toyota feigned disinterest, saying that it already had developed significant carbon fiber expertise in-house. Toyota has been doing carbon fiber research  for nearly ten years. The Lexus LFA supercar is made from 65 percent carbon fiber and 35 percent aluminum.

However, there are many unanswered questions in the carbon fiber business, notably how to produce CFRP bodies quickly and therefore at low cost.


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8 Comments on “Toyota And BMW Edge Closer...”

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    What, no [email protected] pictures?

  • avatar

    When I think of Toyota and carbon fiber, I think of the massive 3D loom they used to make some parts of the LF-A. It’s impressive, go look it up.

  • avatar

    Could the next Mini have a Toyota engine?

  • avatar

    Toyota could provide BMW with small motors for the European and Asian markets too. I believe the smallest BMW motor is 1600 ccm unless you want to throw a “twin boxer” into a car.

  • avatar

    Can anybody answer me this about CFRP bodies, how recyclable are they? The idea of super lightweight cars is a complelling one, but given humanities predilection for wrecking stuff and the need to keep the purchasing cycle going, what good are CFRP bodies that can’t be recycled and are stacked up right along side all those heaps of scrap tires everybody is scratching thier heads about.

    • 0 avatar

      One of the “problems” of CFRP bodies is that they last forever if made right, 50 years and more. The people I talked to say they can be recycled through heat (resin goes, fiber stays), or they can be shreddered and the granulate used in the construction industry.

  • avatar

    There is no other competitor who can compete with BMW…

  • avatar

    Good luck BMW. It’s pretty well shown that some companies don’t play well with others. Ford, for instance, is death on luxury brands. GM is world-infamous for breaking every toy in the sandbox. Toyota, well…they might be ok but the signs aren’t good when you look at the timing on Subaru’s recent styling and materials downgrades.

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