Another OEM is getting in on the ride-sharing game: Toyota announced today that it is partnering with Uber to lease vehicles to Uber drivers on a trial basis.
According to a press release, the companies have entered into a memorandum of understanding to “explore collaboration, starting with trials, in the world of ride-sharing in countries where ridesharing is expanding, taking various factors into account such as regulations, business conditions, and customer needs.”
Under the partnership, Toyota Financial Services Corporation (Toyota’s financing subsidiary) and investment fund Mirai Creation will make a “strategic investment in Uber.” The investment amount was not disclosed. Toyota and Sumitomo Mitsui Bank are partners in Mirai, which focuses in investments in artificial intelligence, robotics and hydrogen-fuel technologies.
As part of the agreement, Uber drivers can lease vehicles from Toyota Financial Services and make payments from their Uber earnings. Leasing terms will be “flexible,” the press release said.
Vincent Bray, a spokesman for Toyota Financial Services, said that the agreement was signed April 25 and the companies had been in discussion for a couple of months before that. He said the rollout for the partnership will be international, including the United States, but the cities for the trial have not yet been finalized.
Uber currently offers leasing of Toyotas, Nissans and Hondas through its Vehicle Solutions program, but the leases are for 36 months—impractical for all but the most committed Uber drivers.
“We look forward to collaborating with Toyota in multiple ways going forward, starting with the expansion of our vehicle financing efforts,” said Emil Michael, chief business officer of Uber.
Toyota and Uber also will explore collaboration in a variety of other areas: in-car apps for Uber drivers, research sharing and selling fleets of Toyota and Lexus vehicles to Uber.
In January, General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft, Uber’s main competitor. Through a program called Express Drive, Lyft drivers in Chicago, Boston, Baltimore and Washington can rent a Chevy Equinox SUV for $99 a week. During the first weeks of the program, 150,000 people lacking cars (or cars that meet Lyft standards) turned in driver applications.