TOKYO -- Suzuki Motor and Daihatsu Motor are joining three other major Japanese carmakers, including Toyota Motor, to jointly develop advanced technologies and accelerate the electrification of commercial vehicles, including so-called kei cars.
The automakers announced Wednesday that Suzuki and Daihatsu will invest in a joint venture set up by Toyota, Hino Motors and Isuzu Motors in April. The companies are set to cooperate on costly research and collaborate on connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles, referred to collectively as CASE technologies.
The project is also a part of the companies' effort to quickly adapt to a carbon-neutral world.
Suzuki and Daihatsu will each acquire 10% of the joint venture's shares from Toyota. After the transaction, Toyota will have a 60% stake in the venture, called Commercial Japan Partnership Technologies, while Hino, Isuzu, Suzuki and Daihatsu will each hold stakes of 10%.
The venture was originally established to develop technologies for commercial vehicles, mainly trucks.
The alliance has now welcomed Suzuki and Daihatsu, two big makers of kei minicars, as it aims to expand collaboration to include small, inexpensive kei cars, which are popular in Japan. Nearly 40% of vehicles in the country are kei minicars.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said: "Kei cars are sustainable and practical. They remain a lifeline for many people," adding, "I believe kei cars can advance even more by using Toyota's CASE technologies."
Through the alliance, the five automakers will share data and technological know-how to promote a more efficient and low-cost logistics system for both trucks and kei cars. The companies plan to develop a connected-technology infrastructure that can link truck logistics to kei cars.
Many kei cars are used by small and medium-size companies, as well as sole proprietors, which is a major reason automakers want to offer the new technologies cheaply.
Hiroki Nakajima, president of the joint venture, said, "If we can share our knowledge about improving logistics efficiency, we can contribute to carbon neutrality not only through the electrification of vehicles but also by reducing the distance traveled by commercial cars."
The alliance will also include initiatives such as incorporating advanced safety technologies into trucks and kei cars, as well as cooperating on the electrification of affordable vehicles.
Daihatsu President Soichiro Okudaira explained that kei manufacturers are up against a "once-in-a- century transformation" with the spread of CASE technologies and the fight to reduce CO2 emissions while maintaining a low price for their vehicles. "These are difficult issues to tackle alone."
He expressed confidence in the partnership, saying the five companies will "create a great synergy together," as they cooperate in the development of integrated commercial business foundation and advanced technologies.