Toyota to buy $1-billion stake in Grab

What's with Grab

What's with Grab

This time, the automaker is lead investor in a financing round launched after Grab acquired Uber's operations in Southeast Asia, a region of 640 million people.

Under the agreement with Toyota, one of the Japanese company's executives will join Grab's board of directors, and a Toyota employee will be seconded to the startup full-time as an executive officer.

Grab is in eight nations in the region, including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Meanwhile Japan's SoftBank Group Corp - also an investor in Grab and Uber - last month said it would invest $2.25 billion in GM's autonomous vehicle unit Cruise.

The investment by Toyota is the largest-ever by an automaker in the global ride-hailing sector, the six-year-old start-up said in a statement on Wednesday.

Toyota has also backed San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. and made investments in Japan Taxi, an Uber rival run by the chairman of Tokyo's biggest taxi operator.

Toyota has installed its driving recorder devices in some vehicles operated by Grab, using the collected data stored in its mobility services platform to analyse driving patterns and develop vehicle services.

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Toyota put money into Grab via its Next Technology Fund previous year, but this time around the capital comes directly from the parent company.

Today's announced expansion is aimed at achieving connectivity for Grab's rental auto fleet across Southeast Asia, and at rolling out various connected services throughout the region that use vehicle data stored on Toyota's MSPF. In particular, that will involve close collaboration with the Toyota Mobility Service Platform (MSPF), which is working on areas such as user-based insurance, new types of financial packages and predictive vehicle maintenance.

"We will work with partners like Toyota to continue to transform transportation in Southeast Asia", Grab said in an email. The two companies will look for future collaborations aimed to achieve more-efficient ride-hailing businesses and for developing future mobility service solutions and MaaS vehicles. The Malaysian-born but now Singapore-based company has its namesake app in over 100 million mobile devices, giving passengers access to over 6.6 million drivers and agents.

From its beginnings as a taxi-booking app - its original name is GrabTaxi - the company is morphing into an online platform for connecting users and offline services, and is venturing into financial services and venture capital.

"Going forward, together with Grab, we will develop services that are more attractive, safe and secure for our customers in Southeast Asia", Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota executive vice-president, said in the release.

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