We all like Daihatsu for their original concept cars and useful small cars. Except the Europeans, of course. Toyota have decided now is the time to pounce
According to Autocar, Daihatsu, Reuters, Bloomberg, AutoExpress, Japan Times, and the Washington Post, Toyota have raised their stake in the firm by purchasing $3.2 billion of the remaining shares. The argument runs that Toyota needs Daihatsu´s talent at building small cars. Toyota feels it lacks this capacity while Daihatsu could benefit from being smothered inside a large firm. Reuter describes the deal as follows: “Toyota Motor Corp. will aim to transform Daihatsu Motor Co. from a maker of small cars that used to deter their owners from going out on dates into a brand as valued as BMW AG’s Mini.” The difference here is that Daihatu doesn’t
have what in modern language is called an “iconic model”. If anything, Daihatsu is much more talented a firm than that as its remarkable concept cars demonstrate. As it stands, Daihatsu has 30% of the Japanese mini car market and did well compared to other brands in the current market conditions.
There are about twenty-something cars in the Daihatu range which you can look at here. For anyone interested in automotive diversity it’s a very entertaining zoo of vehicles that do not conform to butch stereotypes or to what can call, being charitable, the conservative good taste of western buyers. Toyota reckons that Daihatsu’s engineers are good at miniaturisation and designing around the economics of the constrained kei-car market.
The idea is that these skills can be transferred to Toyota’s other cars and give them an advantage in their own market sectors. I expect they would most like to see more efficiency in the Yaris end of the market where much of what Daihatsu can do might be of immediate use.
Large companies have a bad track record of absorbing smaller or weaker ones. Citroen, Lancia and Rover all did spectacularly badly under their eventual masters. Toyota itself has a patchy record of co-operation with other firms as they themselves admitted in the announcement concerning Daihatsu’s take-over.
I value Daihatsu’s imaginative approach to car design and if one can be optimistic, I hope that Toyota can provide some financial support to help get some of Daihatsu’s joyful and original concept cars a little further from the show podium and onto customers’ driveways.