Toyota investing $1 billion in ride-hailing company Grab

A man walks past a Grab office in Singapore

Announcing Toyota's stake Wednesday, Singapore-based Grab called the investment the largest ever by an automaker in the global ride-hailing sector. It follows an initial investment a year ago through Toyota's trading arm in the company that forced Uber Technologies Inc. out of the region. It has also backed Japan Taxi, an Uber rival run by the chairman of Tokyo's biggest taxi operator. Grab said it plans to work with its new investor "to create a more efficient transport network that will ease traffic congestion in Southeast Asia's megacities" and help its drivers increase their income. The investment is to take place around the end of this month, Toyota said.

Toyota's trading arm, Toyota Tsusho Corp., invested an undisclosed amount in August, and the companies have worked together since then, developing connected services.

Today's announced expansion is aimed at achieving connectivity for Grab's rental auto fleet across Southeast Asia, and at rolling out various connected services throughout the region that use vehicle data stored on Toyota's MSPF.

Toyota, the world's most valuable carmaker with a market capitalization of about $221 billion, has sought partnerships with a pantheon of tech companies including Amazon Inc. and Apple Inc.in a bet that data will be a key part of its future.

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The cooperation with Grab will focus on services related to fleet management, such as maintenance.

Toyota executive VP Shigeki Tomoyama, who is president of hte in-house Connected Company, said the collaboration will utilise Toyota's connected technologies. The automaker is still discussing which executive to send to Grab's board, and is considering dispatching "a number" of Toyota employees to its partner, the spokeswoman said.

At about $10 billion, Grab is still a relatively small player. While Grab would not share how much it is raising in this ongoing round, observers pegged the sum to be US$2 billion, similar to its Series G round led by Didi Chuxing and Softbank in 2017.

Japan's SoftBank Group Corp last month announced it would invest $2.25 billion in the Cruise autonomous vehicle unit of General Motors Co, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC have agreed to supply vehicles for Alphabet Inc's self-driving auto subsidiary Waymo.

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Carmakers are working with and competing against technology companies to figure out how to make money from services to drivers as automation, electrification and on-demand transportation threaten to reshape the industry.

Toyota is investing a further $US1 billion in ride-sharing giant Grab.

Li Jianggan, chief of business consultancy firm mworks and former Asian head of Easy Taxi, told BT: "Grab is constantly raising money - and I believe they do need a good cash reserve to realise their complex ambition of being the dominant Internet and fintech giant in South-east Asia".

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