Uber driver (photo by Uber)
Everyone is talking about “mobility” these days, especially forward-thinking folks in the auto industry. That’s because car companies know that huge changes lie ahead, including electrification, autonomization, and the arrival of tech firms in the auto marketplace. (Looking at you, Apple, Google.) Those will have equally huge effects on automakers’ bottom lines.
And so, the smart guys and gals are diversifying. Earlier this year, General Motors announced a $500 million partnership with Lyft to break into the ridesharing market. Now, another industry giant, Toyota, has countered by teaming up with one of Lyft’s biggest competitors, Uber.
An outline of that partnership’s parameters was given in a brief press release from Toyota, which said, in part:
“Toyota Motor Corporation, an automotive company aiming for safer, more efficient and convenient mobility, and Uber, a technology platform that is evolving the way the world moves, are announcing a partnership. The companies have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore collaboration, starting with trials, in the world of ridesharing in countries where ridesharing is expanding, taking various factors into account such as regulations, business conditions, and customer needs. As part of the partnership, Toyota Financial Services Corporation and Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership are making a strategic investment in Uber.”
What, exactly, does all that mean? Specifics on the MOU haven’t been provided, but Toyota does note that Uber drivers will be able to lease vehicles through Toyota’s financial services arm and apply their Uber earnings to lease payments. That sounds awfully similar to the deal that GM is offering to Lyft drivers.
Toyota also mentions that the two companies are “developing in-car apps that support Uber drivers, sharing knowledge and accelerating their respective research efforts, and establishing a special fleet program to sell Toyota and Lexus vehicles to Uber drivers.”
Perhaps the bigger question is whether Toyota and Uber will duplicate another plan hatched by GM and Lyft–one that would eliminate drivers altogether by creating a fleet of autonomous taxis. If so, we doubt it’ll sit well with already-angry Uber drivers.