Toyota Aims for BMW-Mini Success With $3.2 Billion Daihatsu Deal

  • Overhaul planned as Toyota acquiring rest of minicar maker
  • BMW's Mini is `goal we should aim for,' Akio Toyoda says

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 world’s largest automaker has global ambitions for Daihatsu as it will spend about 389 billion yen ($3.2 billion) in stock to make the company a wholly-owned subsidiary. In addition to differentiating the Toyota and Daihatsu brands, Toyota President Akio Toyoda wants to use the purchase as a means to speeding up the company’s decision-making.

“The Daihatsu brand will never disappear -- let me assure you of that,” Toyoda, 59, said at a press conference Friday in Tokyo. “It will be like Mini for BMW. That’s the sort of goal we should aim for.”

Toyota is forging closer ties with its Japanese peers as automakers face rising costs of meeting tougher environmental standards and the challenge of navigating slower global sales growth. The carmaker said last year it would deepen collaboration with Mazda Motor Corp., and it’s reportedly considering an alliance with Suzuki Motor Corp.

To acquire the rest of its 51 percent-owned affiliate, Toyota expects to offer 0.26 share for each share of Daihatsu in an exchange of stock scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, according to a statement. Toyota is offering a 0.6 percent premium based on the closing share prices of both the companies on Friday.

Toyota’s Partnerships

Toyoda spoke candidly about his company’s spotty history handling past alliances, with Toyota looking down at its partners. The automaker is making progress on this front, he said, praising Daihatsu models including Copen two-door roadster as among his favorites to take for a spin.

Toyota may not be done in spurring more consolidation within Japan’s auto industry. The carmaker is studying a potential partnership with Suzuki, the Nikkei newspaper reported Thursday, a day after the two companies denied being in talks. Toyoda didn’t respond to a reporter’s question Friday about whether the company will form an alliance with Suzuki.

Daihatsu will stop trading on July 26 and de-list the following day, according to the companies. Toyota rose 4.6 percent to 7,200 yen at the close in Tokyo, before the announcement. Daihatsu gained 3.5 percent to 1,860 yen.

Sales Struggle

Last year was a struggle for Daihatsu, with worldwide sales slumping 13 percent to 794,000 vehicles. The leader in Japan’s minicar segment saw domestic deliveries decline 14 percent, after a price war with Suzuki for sales leadership during the last fiscal year pulled ahead demand.

Minicars, sold almost exclusively in Japan, have evolved from an age when buying one kept owners from getting dates with girls, Toyoda said. More recently, they’ve gained “an element of fun-to-drive,” he said.

Outside Japan, Daihatsu has been slumping in Indonesia, with deliveries dropping 10 percent through the first half of its fiscal year. The affiliate has built vehicles for its parent in Indonesia, where its share of industrywide production was about 39 percent in the last fiscal year.

Toyota also owns a majority of truck maker Hino Motors Ltd. and has minority stakes in Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and truck maker Isuzu Motors Ltd.

Daihatsu traces its beginnings to March 1907, when two academics and a group of businessmen set up a company in Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city, to produce internal combustion engines. Toyota first tied up with Daihatsu in 1967, has owned its majority stake since 1998 and has been supplied Toyota-branded minicars since 2011.

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