Toyota Plans Billion-Dollar Investment in Ride-Hailing Startup Grab

Toyota embraces new businesses that threaten the industry's traditional business model

Toyota is investing as a lead investor in Grab's ongoing financing round, Grab said in a statement on Wednesday (June 13).

This is Toyota's second investment in Grab.

Since August 2017, Toyota and Grab have been developing connected services for the latter, utilising driving data collected by Toyota's TransLog data-transmission driving recorder.

The fresh funds will allow Grab to further expand services such as its food delivery service GrabFood and mobile payments GrabPay to more countries across the region.

General Motors Co has invested in US ride services firm Lyft, whose rival Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] is also backed by Toyota.

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"A board seat nearly guarantees that Grab will buy cars from Toyota", said Steve Man, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong.

Both companies have already begun collaboration in the field of connected vehicles by, for example, providing driving-data-based automotive insurance for Grab's rental fleet in Singapore through local insurance companies. Grab and Toyota will also roll-out connected vehicle services, such as telematics-based insurance, which may reduce the cost of insurance premiums for safer Grab drivers, the statement said. The carmaker first invested an undisclosed amount in Grab in August a year ago, after it invested in US-based Uber in 2016 in a partnership for a financing programme that allowed Uber drivers to lease vehicles from Toyota and drive for Uber to cover the payments. General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co. are among carmakers that have invested in ride-hailing applications.

Toyota, the world's most valuable carmaker with a market capitalization of about $221 billion, has sought partnerships with tech companies in a bet that data will be a key part of its future. "We want to be the one-stop mobility platform for users".

"We are thrilled to have Toyota onboard as a long-term, strategic partner of Grab. A future that will provide for safer and more affordable rides, more liveable cities, and millions of new micro businesses in the digital revolution", he said. "We will continue to work with global leaders like Toyota in bringing this vision to pass", said Anthony Tan, co-founder and CEO of Grab.

Toyota executive VP Shigeki Tomoyama, who is president of hte in-house Connected Company, said the collaboration will utilise Toyota's connected technologies.

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In a statement, Toyota said the deal "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 utilize vehicle data" stored by Toyota.

How big is Grab today?

Grab, which is similar to Uber in the USA, is in eight nations in the region, including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

Grab said it logs six million rides a day via apps downloaded onto over 100 million mobile devices.

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