Toyota Takes Over Daihatsu

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

2015 Daihatsu Hinata:
2015 Daihatsu Hinata:

According to Autocar, DaihatsuReuters, 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

2016 Daihatsu Copen Cero: source
2016 Daihatsu Copen Cero: source

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.

2015 Daihatsu Hinata interior: source
2015 Daihatsu Hinata interior: source

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.


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “Toyota Takes Over Daihatsu”

  1. In a way, Daihatsu is the exact opposite of present-day Citroen – in that the cars are cheerful but not at all cynical.

  2. A propos of Daihatsu, seen on a billboard in Haiti in January, ’86: “Au volant, sozyez Charmant.” Not a Kei car, a Corolla.

  3. Thanks Richard! Besides having wanted an RHD Copen for a long time, now you also made me want a Hinata!

  4. There seem to be two, and possibly three stories here.

    The financial one seems to me to be a non-event. Toyota have held their 51% controlling interest in Daihatsu since 1988. Effectively they could do as they please, and did. Daihatsu were given responsibility for small engine development, kei cars, small 4x4s, and oddities like the Materia (Scion xB), and licensed-out designs – Perodua, Tianjin.

    At the same time, the Daihatsu brand was withdrawn gradually from North America, Australia / NZ, and Europe, despite having a good reputation and a loyal, and in some cases quite sizeable following. The strength of the yen played a considerable part in this, to be fair to big bad Toyota.

    Now there seems to be fresh thinking on Daihatsu’s global identity. Despite the talk of positioning Daihatsu as a ‘boutique brand’ like MINI and DS, the stronger notion is that Toyota want to make Daihatsu their version of Suzuki, as a brand for fast growing, mainly south, and south east Asian markets.

    The third story is this week’s report, almost immediately denied, that Toyota are seeking some sort of alliance with Suzuki, underpinned by a capital tie-up between the two companies.
    Make of it what you will. I suspect that it has very little to do with quirky little cars, and a lot to do with an onslaught on India, as China’s growth slows.

    1. Good reply. Did Toyota need to spend three billion monies to get control of a firm you suggest they guided anyway?
      I hope they keep a line of cars firmly in the small and zany category as as ones formed along the lines of Perodua and Maruti which never have the flair Daihatsu often displays.

  5. Unlike most of these marriages, I can actually see this one working. Toyota have long struggled to crack the small car market, as evidenced by their tie up with PSA for the Aygo (not actually a bad car) and the IQ, which is more of a thought experiment made metal than an actual saleable vehicle. Conversely, Daihatsu have the small car skills but are hindered abroad by their Japan-centric outlook. I predict success.

    1. Isn´t the Japanese outlook that which makes their cars so appealing? I don´t want big Daihatsus. You could say that all the interesting cars came from a time when their makers had national-outlooks instead of international ones.

    2. I would say not, judging by their international sales. Anyway, I doubt that Toyota intend to fiddle with Daihatsu’s quirky ethos, lest their hold on the Japanese market be diluted. Akio Toyoda’s statements were very respectful of Daihatsu and clear about what he expected from the deal: better small Toyotas. In return, Daihatsu can expect advice on how to improve their international offerings, plus the cost savings that access to Toyota’s mighty buying department can offer.

  6. Daithatsu didn’t really cope well with a larger canvas, going by the Applause and Materia, which are so odd that they each deserve their own DTW analysis.

    I’ll disregard the Charmant, which was a lightly re-skinned Corolla in various generations. However the quite large Daihatsu trucks I occasionally encounter on my foreign travels are another side of Daihatsu history. They seem to be re-branded Toyotas and Hinos, following on from an “agreement” in 1967, long before the controlling interest of 1988. Their very existence tells a story about the strength of the Daihatsu brand and how widely it had spread, even 40 years ago .

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