Five Japanese automakers sign on to SoftBank-Toyota self-drive venture

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A mock-up of self-driving car e-Palette is displayed at a news conference by Monet Technologies Inc., a joint venture of SoftBank Corp and Toyota Motor Corp that will develop self-driving car services, in Tokyo, Japan, on March 28, 2019. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Updated 28 June 2019
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Five Japanese automakers sign on to SoftBank-Toyota self-drive venture

  • Suzuki, Mazda, Subaru Corp, Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Toyota’s compact car unit Daihatsu will each invest $530,620 in the venture — dubbed Monet — in return for a 2% stake

TOKYO: Five Japanese automakers including Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. on Friday said they would each invest 2% in the on-demand, self-driving car service venture set up by SoftBank Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.
Suzuki, Mazda, Subaru Corp, Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Toyota’s compact car unit Daihatsu will each invest 57.1 million yen ($530,620) in the venture — dubbed Monet — in return for a 2% stake, the companies said in a statement.
SoftBank and Toyota will each retain their 35% stakes in the company, which is now capitalized at $26.6 million. The latest investors join Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Hino Motors Ltd., Toyota’s truck-making operations, which each own 10% stakes.
Launched in October, the venture plans to roll out on-demand bus and car services in Japan in the next year, and a services platform for electric vehicles in the country as early as 2023 based on Toyota’s boxy “e-palette” multi-purpose vehicle.
Monet is building up members as it joins the ride-sharing sphere which is dominated by startups such as Uber Technologies Inc, Didi Chuxing and Lyft Inc, as traditional automakers band together to compete in an industry which is placing growing emphasis on offering vehicle services rather than selling cars to individual drivers.
Automakers are increasingly joining forces with technology companies as well as each other as they grapple with the massive investment and software expertise required to develop these new services for which demand has yet to be tested.
The new investment will see Suzuki, Mazda and Subaru deepen their partnership with Toyota, as they have already agreed to tap the R&D firepower of Japan’s biggest automaker for electric cars and other future vehicle technologies.
Friday’s announcement comes after Monet’s chief executive told Reuters earlier this month it was planning to expand its investor base and start operating in,

 


BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

Oliver Zipse
Updated 19 July 2019
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BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

  • German giant has lost ground to Mercedes-Benz and Tesla as tech steps up

FRANKFURT: BMW has named Oliver Zipse as its new CEO, continuing the German carmaker’s tradition of promoting production chiefs to the top job even as the auto industry expands into new areas such as technology and services.
Hailing Zipse’s “decisive” leadership style, BMW hopes the 55-year-old can help it win back its edge in electric cars and the premium market  from rival Mercedes-Benz.
But some analysts questioned whether Zipse was the right choice with new fields such as software and services like car-sharing becoming increasingly important.
“What is intriguing is the cultural bias to appoint the head of production. It works sometimes but ... being good at building cars is not a defining edge the way it was 20 years ago,” said Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois.
Current CEO Harald Krueger, and former chiefs Norbert Reithofer, Bernd Pischetsrieder and Joachim Milberg were all former production heads.
Zipse joined BMW as a trainee in 1991 and served as head of brand and product strategies and boss of BMW’s Oxford plant in England before joining the board.
He will become chief executive on Aug. 16, taking over from Krueger who said he would not be available for a second term.
“With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will assume the Chair of the Board of Management of BMW. He will provide fresh momentum in shaping  the future,” said Reithofer.
Zipse helped expand BMW’s efficient production network in Hungary, China and the US, in a move that delivered industry-leading profit margins.
Under Krueger, BMW was overtaken in 2016 by Mercedes-Benz as the best-selling luxury car brand.
It also had an early lead over US  rival Tesla in electric cars, but scaled back ambitions after its i3 model failed to sell large numbers.
Reithofer initially championed Krueger’s low-key consensus-seeking leadership, but pressured him to roll out electric vehicles more aggressively, forcing Krueger to skip the Paris Motor Show in 2016 to reevaluate BMW’s electric strategy.
Krueger’s reluctance to push low-margin electric vehicles led to an exodus of talented electric vehicle experts, including Christian Senger, now Volkswagen’s (VW) board member responsible for software, and Audi’s Markus Duesmann, who is seen as a future CEO of the company.
Both were poached by VW CEO Herbert Diess, a former BMW board member responsible for research who was himself passed over for BMW’s top job in 2015.
VW has since pushed a radical 80 billion euro ($90 billion) electric car mass production strategy, and a sweeping alliance with Ford.

Other skills
“A CEO needs to have an idea for how mobility will evolve in the future. This goes far beyond optimising an existing business,” said Carsten Breitfeld, chief executive of China-based ICONIQ motors, and former BMW engineer. “He needs to build teams, attract talent, and promote a culture oriented along consumer electronics and internet dynamics.”
German manufacturers have dominated the high-performance market for decades, but analysts warn shifts towards sophisticated technology and software is opening the door to new challengers.
“Tesla has a lead of three to four years in areas like software and electronics. There is a risk that the Germans can’t catch up,” UBS analyst Patrick Hummel said.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport car magazine, normally quick to champion German manufacturers, this week ran a cover questioning BMW’s future.
“Production expertise is important, but if you want to avoid ending up being a hardware provider for Google or Apple, you need to have the ability to move up the food chain into data and software,” a former BMW board member said.