Toyota Backs Uber With Strategic Investment

With ride-sharing rising in cities and self-driving automotives becoming a reality, the Japanese car maker is betting on Uber reinventing the wheel.

Toyota is making a strategic investment in Uber that is looking towards the practical, immediate growth of on-demand apps as well as the longer term value of ridesharing, self-driving cars, and location intelligence.

The exact amount of the Japanese car company’s investment was not disclosed. In any case, Toyota’s alliance comes as Uber rival Lyft attempts a price war in New York and luxury ridesharing platform Gett has raised $300 million from Volkswagen.

“We’re excited that Toyota, the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, is making a strategic investment in Uber as part of a broader global partnership. Toyota vehicles are among the most popular cars on the Uber platform worldwide and we look forward to collaborating with Toyota in multiple ways going forward, starting with the expansion of our vehicle financing efforts,” said Emil Michael, chief business officer of Uber.

For right now, this partnership will concentrate on creating new leasing options in which car purchasers can lease their vehicles from Toyota Financial Services and cover their payments through earnings generated as Uber drivers. The leasing period will be flexible and “based on driver needs,” according to the release. This program essentially expands Uber’s existing Vehicle Solutions program.

“Ridesharing has huge potential in terms of shaping the future of mobility,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, senior managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation. Through this collaboration with Uber, we would like to explore new ways of delivering secure, convenient and attractive mobility services to customers.”

Tomoyama is also senior managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp. and president of the Connected Company, one of its recently created in-house companies.

Looking toward the future, the idea of “connected cars” and consumers is something that all major automotive companies are thinking about. Even though only 15 percent of consumers have used a ride-hailing app, as we reported this week, that number is likely to grow rapidly.

But beyond the ride-hailing aspects, Uber has been particularly out in front on the concept of mobility and connected consumers more than any other other entity, except for perhaps Google and Apple. While it’s clearly still experimenting with delivery services, Uber’s position as a ride-sharing platform mirrors Amazon’s early days as an online bookseller.

And with Amazon’s role as a leading e-commerce provider, Uber would seem perfectly positioned to maintain its hegemony in bridging digital and physical.

Aside from that, Uber’s alliances are wide and, at the very least, have the potential to be mutually beneficial to all those it keeps within its network of marketing partners.

Take Hilton HHonors, the hotelier’s rewards program, for example. Last month, it expanded its collaboration with Uber to offer its members the ability to order an Uber straight from the HHonors app. Plus, Uber riders can now view their hotel stay information and check-in, all accessed via the Uber app en route to their hotel.

The expanded partnership builds on the success of the companies’ Local Scene and Ride Reminder partnership – digital features more than 250,000 travelers within the U.S. have used to simplify their stay.

It’s not hard to imagine the marketing value that Uber might be able to share with both sides, as well as its many other collaborators.

At the center of Uber’s value is its location data — an area in which it is increasingly self-reliant. The company has been particularly driven when it comes to building up its own navigation capabilities over the past year, as the recognition of first party geo-data becomes important.

Rather than using Google Maps, Uber has decided that its marketing partnerships are as essential as appealing to riders and businesses — something that Toyota has clearly recognized.

And it’s something Uber appreciates, as it looks to the next ally.

“Toyota is a global leader in the automotive industry and Toyota vehicles are among the most popular cars on the Uber platform worldwide,” an Uber spokesperson told GeoMarketing. “We are proud to partner with Toyota in a variety of ways, including the expansion of our vehicle financing program.”


About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.