Volkswagen and Toyota Agree on Self-Driving Truck Partnership
The truck divisions of Toyota and Volkswagen have agreed to work together on electric vehicles and self-driving truck technology, marking an unusual partnership between the Japanese and German automotive rivals.
Negotiations on the partnership were revealed in Tokyo on Thursday, are expected to see Hino Motors, the truck division of Toyota, and Volkswagen Truck & Bus GmbH co-operate broadly in procurement and logistics in addition to electric powertrains, connectivity and self-driving technology.
The companies said the alliance had been struck with "a sense of urgency" driven by rising investment costs, a shortage of truck drivers and the need to develop new technologies quickly.
Toyota and Volkswagen are two of the world's largest automotive groups and fierce rivals in passenger vehicles, with each company spending billions of dollars to develop fully autonomous electric vehicles.
But the chief executives of their truck divisions said deeper collaboration between rivals was necessary for commercial vehicles, such as electric trucks and buses, since they provided the basic social infrastructure for public transportation.
"It will be difficult to solve the various challenges commercial vehicles face by being part of the Toyota group alone," said Yoshio Shimo, chief executive of Hino Motors, which Toyota owns 50 percent of. "We need allies."
Andreas Renschler, the head of Volkswagen's truck and bus division, stressed that the alliance had the full support of the German carmaker as well as Toyota.
The deal would also allow the two companies to expand their global footprint using Hino's presence in Asia and that of Volkswagen Truck & Bus in Europe.
"The changes in the transportation industry come along with a need for further investments and technology capabilities. We are convinced that by joining our forces to tackle these challenges, we will be able to turn challenges into chances," Mr Renschler said at a joint news conference in Tokyo.
The alliance was announced as Volkswagen faces a big management shake-up with Matthias Müller ousted as chief executive of the world's largest carmaker over the fallout resulting from VW's emissions scandal.
Analysts have said that autonomous driving technologies could be most beneficial for trucks and buses that travel longer distances. A rise in e-commerce led by Amazon has created huge demand for long-haul shipping, which has led to a severe shortage in truck drivers.
In a May 2017 report, the International Transport Workers' Federation predicted that up to 4.4 million of the 6.4 million professional trucking jobs in the U.S. and Europe could be eliminated by autonomous driving technology by 2030.
As part of the partnership, Toyota and Volkswagen will set up a joint alliance board consisting of both chief executives to work out the details of the partnership.
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