Two major automotive brands have independently announced significant investment in two taxi apps.
The first is Toyota, which has entered into a 'memorandum of understanding' with Uber, alongside a strategic investment in the app business.
Under the deal, a program will be launched enabling drivers to lease vehicles from Toyota Financial Services and cover their payments through earnings from working as an Uber driver, building on Uber’s current Vehicle Solutions program.
Their collaboration will also extend to the development of in-car apps for Uber drivers, establishing a fleet program to sell Toyota and Lexus vehicles to Uber's drivers, and sharing knowledge to accelerating the research efforts of each company.
For Uber, the motivation seems to be developing driverless cars – and it reportedly wasn't too fussy about which automaker it partnered with. According to Recode, Uber has been in talks with a number of automotive brands over the past year, including General Motors and Ford, in an attempt to strike a deal like the one it has now announced with Toyota.
The second investment comes from Volkswagen, which has put $300m (£204m) into Gett, an Israel-based ride sharing app currently focused on European cities. The investment is intended to help Gett strengthen its position in the market, and support a joint growth strategy focused on 'collaborative development and market expansion of on-demand mobility services in Europe and beyond'.
It's part of Volkswagen's goal to generate a 'substantial share of sales revenue' from ride sharing and other mobility services by 2025.
These services represent a potentially enormous new revenue source for automotive brands, so it's no surprise that Toyota seems to be looking in the same direction. “Ridesharing has huge potential in terms of shaping the future of mobility,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, senior managing officer of Toyota – and they're not alone.
General Motors signed a similar partnership with Lyft back in January, investing $500m in the ride-hailing app. Meanwhile, Ford has launched the FordPass app, collecting a range of mobility services under a single umbrella.
Ford's Consumer experience marketing head Jörg Ullrich recently told Mobile Marketing: “Our core business right now is selling vehicles, but we want to get into that emerging business and build it slowly but steadily. It’s not going to happen overnight, but there’s a lot of those little things which tie together. Car sharing, parking tickets, gas stations – if you add all those revenue streams together there’s a lot of business out there that we’re not even touching at the moment.”