The announcement by Toyota and Mazda earned a congratulatory tweet from the president early Friday. “Toyota & Mazda to build a new $1.6B plant here in the U.S.A. and create 4K new American jobs. A great investment in American manufacturing!” he wrote. Seven months earlier he had warned Toyota in a tweet that moving operations to Mexico could result in a “big border tax.”
The alliance between Toyota and Mazda represents a small but significant step in the consolidation of the Japanese car industry, where a half-dozen producers compete for customers and capital. Toyota and Mazda said they planned to pursue joint development of electric vehicles and safety technology.
In an era of soaring development costs and unsettling technological shifts — especially the emergence of battery-powered and self-driving cars — many smaller producers fear they lack the resources required to keep up. Even Toyota, one of the world’s largest producers of vehicles, with an output of 10 million units a year, has been accused by some critics of falling behind in research and development.
“In the future, mobility won’t belong only to carmakers,” Mr. Toyoda said at a news conference announcing the Mazda stake, noting that Silicon Valley was increasingly turning its gaze to the auto industry, looking to disrupt areas including design, manufacturing and retail distribution.
“Totally new players like Google and Amazon are right before our eyes,” Mr. Toyoda said. “We need to cooperate and compete with them.”
Japan’s smaller carmakers have sought partnerships with larger producers before. Ford Motor long had a minority stake in Mazda, as did General Motors in Suzuki, before the American partners withdrew.
Mitsubishi joined the Renault-Nissan alliance last year, after the French-Japanese group extended Mitsubishi a $2.2 billion lifeline to help it recover from a scandal over falsified fuel-economy ratings.
Toyota has been extending its reach, as well.
Last year, it took…