Toyota Motor Corp.’s investment in Uber Technologies Inc. has drawn the battle lines between the world’s largest automakers, which have now solidified partnerships with competing ride-hailing apps in the burgeoning field of on-demand transportation.
Along with buying a small stake in Uber, Toyota will begin offering leases to Uber drivers, who’ll be able to cover their payments with what they earn ferrying around the app’s users. The collaboration follows investments by Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. in Uber rivals Gett Inc. and Lyft Inc., respectively.
Aligning with Uber, Lyft and Gett represent strategic moves by the world’s biggest automakers to have an inside look at an industry taking aim at the concept of car ownership. The hailing apps are luring outsiders with auto industry ambitions including Apple Inc., which invested $1 billion this month in Chinese car-booking giant Didi Chuxing.
“There is a huge market in ride-sharing,” said Steve Man, a Hong Kong-based analyst covering the auto industry at Bloomberg Intelligence. “This is changing the way we use cars and the automakers don’t want to miss out.”
Toyota and Uber, the largest global ride-hailing provider, declined to comment on the size of the investment.
The Japanese automaker has no interest in taking a big position in the ride-sharing company or eventually controlling it, said a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be named. Toyota could easily get out of the investment if the partners decide to go their separate ways, the person said. Toyota wants to build expertise about how consumers use ride-sharing services, the person said.
Gett, the taxi-ordering rival to Uber based in Tel Aviv, said on Tuesday it raised $300 million from Germany’s Volkswagen. In January, GM invested $500 million into Lyft, the second-largest U.S. ride-hailing service. GM President Dan Ammann joined Lyft’s board, and the automaker has begun leasing vehicles to Lyft drivers in Chicago, with the companies planning to expand the program.
BMW AG said Wednesday that it took an unspecified stake in Scoop Technologies Inc., which offers a car-pooling app that matches employees of companies such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. to share vehicles for commutes in the San Francisco Bay area. The move follows BMW starting ReachNow in Seattle, an expanded car-sharing service that will let users book chauffeur services and have cars delivered.