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Toyota is betting on Grab with $1-billion investment

What does this deal mean for both companies?

Hopefully, the partnership will lead to a fleet of nice cars. PHOTO FROM TOYOTA

Toyota has just expanded its existing partnership with ride-hailing company Grab by announcing that it will invest a total of $1 billion in the Singapore-based startup. According to Grab, the investment is the largest ever by an automotive firm in the ride-hailing sector and aims to enable the company to expand its services as well as become more efficient in the way it operates. As part of the deal, one executive from the Japanese carmaker will join Grab’s board of directors, and another member of Toyota’s staff will be given an executive officer position in the ride-sharing company.

While it may seem logical that a car manufacturer wants to get its foot in the door with a company utilizing thousands of its vehicles, this partnership goes way beyond pure sales figures. The two organizations have been working together since August 2017, when 100 Grab cars were fitted with fleet-management and data-collection software developed by an in-house team at Toyota. This driving recorder, called TransLog, can capture a wide variety of data points, such as driving patterns and telematic information including a vehicle’s position and health.

How the business partnership will work, in a nutshell. IMAGE FROM TOYOTA

All of this information is then handled via Toyota’s Mobility Service Platform and stored in the company’s Big Data Center. The result is a system that can accurately analyze data and does not only provide accurate fleet-usage information to Grab but may also change the way drivers operate. For example, having accurate usage information for a vehicle could pave the way for insurance premiums that are based on real driving data, something the two companies have already tried in Singapore. Accurately monitoring a vehicle’s systems in this way can also assist with preventive maintenance, making the process more efficient and helping to avoid mechanical breakdowns.

According to Grab, the investment is the largest ever by an automotive firm in the ride-hailing sector and aims to enable the company to expand its services

Grab, a fast-growing technology leader that only recently saw off competitor Uber in Southeast Asia, is keen to achieve this type of connectivity across the whole region, and Toyota will no doubt play a big part of this effort now, although it is not the only automotive firm with an interest in the ride-hailing outfit. Hyundai has also invested an undisclosed amount as part of Grab’s latest Series G financing round, with the Korean automaker seemingly having similar aims to their Japanese counterpart. Both car brands join the likes of China’s DiDi Chuxing, Japan’s SoftBank and America’s Uber as investors, bringing Grab’s valuation up to $10 billion.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.