May 13, 2015 / 8:02 AM / 3 years ago

Toyota, Mazda announce 'engagement' via long-term partnership

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) announced a long-term partnership that would go beyond project-based tie-ups in an industry where rivals are increasingly turning to each other for help.

Automakers worldwide are joining forces to cut costs by building scale and spreading the load of heavy investments in new technologies.

While Toyota and Mazda said they hoped to collaborate across a broad range of fields including environmental and advanced safety technologies, they stressed that their link-up was also aimed at learning from each other to make more appealing cars.

“It’s not at all about scale, or something that can be seen or measured,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda told a news conference on Wednesday, likening the tie-up to an “engagement”.

“We think we have a lot to learn from Mazda,” he said, noting the smaller automaker had won many prestigious Car of the Year awards, unlike Toyota.

The deal is a ringing endorsement for Mazda, a second-tier Japanese automaker whose spending on research on development is a tenth of Toyota’s but which has won over fans with its sporty, design-conscious cars powered by its Skyactiv series of fuel-efficient engines and vehicle architecture.

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TOYOTA‘S AMBITIONS

Toyoda and his Mazda counterpart, Masamichi Kogai, sidestepped questions about whether a capital alliance could be on the horizon.

    “I won’t talk about the hypothetical,” Toyoda said, while Kogai said it wasn’t part of Wednesday’s agreement.

    Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), Japan’s second-biggest automaker behind Toyota, has an alliance with France’s Renault SA (RENA.PA), the French company owning 43.4 percent of Nissan.

    Already the world’s top-selling automaker, Toyota is on a mission, led by founding family chief Toyoda, to make cars that consumers would want to buy for reasons other than dependability and quality, which the brand has been known for.

    Toyoda said he admired Mazda for succeeding in rebuilding itself after a turbulent period that included financial difficulties, which saw it come under the control of Ford Motor Co (F.N), and then losing those ties when the U.S. giant itself needed to cash out to shore up its finances.

    Toyota and Mazda said they would set up a joint committee to work out how to collaborate, and in what areas, in agreements that would go “beyond the traditional framework of cooperation.”

    The two companies now have technology and manufacturing tie-ups in which Mazda licenses gasoline-electric hybrid technology from Toyota, and will soon start producing in Mexico a small sedan based on the Mazda2, using its Skyactiv engine, for Toyota’s Scion youth brand.

    Editing by Chris Gallagher and Edmund Klamann

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