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Toyota and Mazda Are Joining Forces to Develop Electric Vehicles

The automotive competitors are creating a new company dedicated to producing electric vehicles.

You can tell we’re on the verge of a sea change in the automotive industry from the flurry of deals and partnerships — no one seems to be content to just keep doing what they’ve been doing. With Nissan, Tesla, and Chevrolet finally breaking through into the mainstream with their electric vehicles, few companies are going to want to risk getting left behind. So it goes with Toyota and Mazda — the two companies announced today that they’re setting up a joint venture dedicated to electric.

Toyota, Mazda, and Denso (a parts supplier partly owned by Toyota) have banded together to create a new company called EV Common Architecture Spirit Co. Ltd, which will work to develop all-electric cars. It makes sense for both companies involved. Mazda has done very little to develop their own electric drive systems, while Toyota, which once led the electric charge with the Prius, hasn’t yet moved from hybrid to all-electric vehicles.

The new company is 90 percent owned by Toyota, with Mazda and Denso taking a 5 percent share each. The company will handle the whole pipeline of development, from research to manufacturing to testing. Should the company actually produce vehicles for consumers, it’s unclear how they would be branded.

What is clear is that the new company will have a broad scope. The joint release states the company will look into electric drive systems for minivehicles, passenger vehicles, SUVs, and light trucks. That release is refreshingly frank about the companies’ motivations, too — with strict emissions policies poised to take effect in a number of countries worldwide, all involved know that they’ll need to start moving away from gas power sooner rather than later.

So, why the teamwork? It’s because development is really expensive and, despite some success from Nissan, Tesla, and Chevrolet, electric vehicles still haven’t proven to be big mainstream sellers. That makes it awfully hard for these automotive companies to see returns on all that R&D cash — it’s a lot easier to stomach when a few of them are pitching in, even if it looks like Toyota will be doing most of the work on this group project.