Toyota sells electric vehicle tech to Chinese startup
BEIJING, April 15: Toyota Motor Corp has agreed to sell electric car technology to Singulato, its first deal with a Chinese electric vehicle startup, allowing the fledgling firm to speed up development of a planned mini EV.
In return, Toyota will have preferential rights to purchase green-car credits that Singulato will generate under China's new quota system for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
It will also gain a bird's-eye view into how Chinese EV startups operate and the strategies they pursue in a fast-changing marketplace, said Singulato Chief Executive Shen Haiyin and two sources at the Japanese automaker.
"With electrification, autonomous driving and car-sharing shaking up the industry, old ways need to be re-examined," one of the Toyota sources said, declining to be identified as he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
"We have a century's lead in automotive technology, but we also need to be humble enough to learn from newcomers."
Singulato will acquire a license to use the design of Toyota's eQ - a battery electric microcar. The deal is due to be announced on Tuesday at the Shanghai auto show, where Singulato will unveil a concept car based on the eQ.
Singulato plans to redesign the car, tailoring it to local tastes to come up with a model by early 2021 that is more affordable and offers a longer driving range.
"This deal gives us a way to save on time and costs to develop a reliable car and focus on what we excel in," Shen told Reuters.
Financial terms are not expected to be disclosed. A Singulato source said the startup agreed to pay "several tens of millions of dollars" for eQ's design.
Toyota said it was taking various measures to accelerate its business in China, a key market, but it would not comment on specific steps.
The agreement is a vote of confidence by Toyota in Singulato's prospects, said Shen. Founded in 2014 and backed by Intel Corp and Japanese trading house Itochu Corp, Singulato is one of at least 50 Chinese EV startups seeking to survive in a competitive market.
It plans to sell its first self-developed battery electric car called the iS6 this year, competing with models from rival startups like Nio and WM Motor as well as those from global automakers.
Singulato's version of the eQ will be a so-called connected car offering young buyers a host of entertainment, safety and navigation features. The car, which will be called the iC3, will also feature some self-driving technology. -Reuters