Uber Technologies Is Getting Awfully Chummy With Toyota

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says he expects the company to have its own autonomous cars within a year but, since the company doesn’t build cars, it needs to partner with one that does. Until now, the company has been in bed with Volvo Cars, previously stating its intention to purchase 24,000 self-driving XC90 SUVs from the brand between 2019 to 2021.

However, the relationship between the two firms isn’t exclusive or binding. That means Uber can still play the field, and may have already found a friend with benefits in Japan.

On Thursday, Khosrowshahi posted a photo on Twitter of himself laughing with Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda and Executive VP Shigeki Tomoyama at the automaker’s headquarters. “Having fun with Akio-San and Tomoyama-San @ToyotaMotorCorp HQ,” he wrote. “Great discussions about growing our partnership and lessons 4 me in building a great culture. And yep, those are Ichiro [Suzuki’s] bats.”

It seems Toyota could be the side piece Uber is looking for.

In addition to their shared love of baseball, President Toyoda green-lit the purchase a number of Uber shares in 2016. How much is unknown, as Toyota won’t disclose it. Until recently, Khosrowshahi only suggested that both companies are committed to developing self-driving vehicles for commercial profit and left it at that.

Bloomberg quotes him as being somewhat more forthcoming during a conference with investors on Tuesday.

“We have a very budding partnership with Toyota,” Khosrowshahi said. “We have to make sure we have access to leading autonomous technology. And that means having access to it in a timely manner. I do believe we can develop our own autonomous technology that we’re doing, and at the same time partner with other players in autonomous technology.”

During his overseas adventure, the CEO made it evident Uber has no interest in abandoning certain regional markets. While some markets have become unfavorable, even going to far as to put up barricades intended to stop the ride-hailing firm, it still wants to see a global expansion.

Japan is one of the markets Uber says it cannot lose, and the company plans to continue investing in the region to assure dominance. Khosrowshahi said the company will do what it takes to beat Ola (the Indian-based app-centric transport provider), including partnering with Japanese taxi firms. Despite currently holding less than one percent of the market, Uber has an ally. Japan’s SoftBank agreed to purchase $1 billion of fresh stock late last year and things appear to be looking up with Toyota.

“It’s clear to me that we need to come [into Japan] with partnership in mind,” Khosrowshahi in the midst of his trip through Asia.

[Image: Dara Khosrowshahi/ Twitter]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • NoID NoID on Feb 23, 2018

    I noticed inconsistency with the application of the honorific "-san." In one case he applied to the family name, and in the other to the given name. Unless one of those Toyota reps has flipped his given and family names, which the Japanese sometimes do in the West (since the family name comes first in most Asian cultures, but second in western cultures.) I mean, who really cares though...

  • Stuki Stuki on Feb 23, 2018

    Changing Uber from a disruptive technology firm, to noting more than a "look at me I'm with famous people" establishment, relationships and privileges firm, will just render it irrelevant over time. Why the heck would the guys doing the driving, back end developing and ride hailing want to cut an army of clueless schmoozers and backroom dealers in, instead focusing on minimizing the spread between what the hailer pays, and what the driver, and developers, receive?

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