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Japan's Toyota, Mazda and Denso to tie up to develop electric vehicles

  • Toyota will take a 90 percent stake in the joint venture, while Mazda and parts maker Denso will each take 5 percent
  • Policymakers in key markets such as China are pushing for a shift to electric cars over the next two to three decades
Toyota President Akio Toyoda nd Mazda President and CEO Masamichi Kogai at a joint press conference on August 4, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images
Toyota President Akio Toyoda nd Mazda President and CEO Masamichi Kogai at a joint press conference on August 4, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.

Toyota is establishing a new venture to develop electric vehicle technology with partner Mazda, seeking to catch up with rivals in an increasingly frenetic race to produce more battery-powered cars.

Policymakers in key markets like China are aggressively pushing a shift to electric cars over the next two to three decades, pressuring traditional automakers to crank up their electric vehicle (EV) plans — just as declining battery costs enable more power to be packed into cars.

Toyota said in a statement the new company will develop technology for a range of electric cars, including minivehicles, passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks.

Toyota will take a 90 percent stake in the joint venture, called EV Common Architecture Spirit, while Mazda and Denso, Toyota's biggest supplier, will each take a 5 percent stake.

The plans build on a partnership announced in August when Japan's biggest automaker agreed to take a 5 percent stake in Mazda and two said they would jointly develop affordable electric vehicle technologies.

After years of focusing on bringing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to the market, Toyota last year set up a division to develop electric cars which is led by President Akio Toyoda, and said it plans to introduce EVs in China in the coming years.

Neither Toyota nor Mazda market fully electric passenger cars at the moment. Toyota has cited affordability and the limited range of battery-operated cars as obstacles to the mass popularization so far.

Mazda has an R&D budget a fraction of Toyota's, which has made it difficult to develop electric cars on its own. Even so, it has said it plans to launch EVs in 2020.

Shares in Mazda were up 3 percent after the announcement, while those in Denso were up 1.5 percent. Toyota shares were flat.