Grab, the Singapore-based on-demand services firm, on Wednesday announced that Toyota Motor would invest US$1 billion into the company as a lead investor in its current fundraising round. Toyota has installed its data recorders in Grab-operated rental cars to collect driving data - a similar strategy it has employed with Japan Taxi, said Bloomberg.
Toyota will place one of its executives on Grab's board, and a second Toyota team member will serve as an executive officer at the company, which Toyota called the "partner of choice for ride-hailing in the region".
Grab called it the largest-ever investment globally by an automotive manufacturer in the ride-hailing sector.
Toyota will also share technology with Grab, including software that predicts when cars need maintenance.
But Toyota had also, in 2016, put money in Grab rival Uber - whose South-east Asian operations were acquired by Grab in March - in a strategic investment.
"We are honored to be supported by industry leaders including Toyota, Uber, Didi and SoftBank", Ming Maa, president of Grab, said.
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"A board seat nearly guarantees that Grab will buy cars from Toyota", said Steve Man, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong.
Other carmakers such as Daimler, BMW and Ford have dabbled in investing and developing their own ride-hailing services.
Grab and Toyota will roll out connected auto services, such as telematics-based insurance, which could reduce the cost of insurance premiums for safer Grab drivers, said Grab.
Toyota, the world's most valuable carmaker with a market capitalization of about $221 billion, has sought partnerships with tech companies in a bet that data will be a key part of its future.
Toyota put money into Grab via its Next Technology Fund a year ago, but this time around the capital comes directly from the parent company.
From its beginnings as a taxi-booking app - its original name is GrabTaxi - the company is morphing into an online platform for connecting users and offline services, and is venturing into financial services and venture capital. Six-year-old Grab has powerful backers though, including Uber, Didi and Son's SoftBank.
Grab now claims over 100 million downloads of its app across eight countries in Asia, including Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and more. "Going forward, together with Grab, we will develop services that are more attractive, safe and secure for our customers in Southeast Asia", said Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota executive VP and president of Toyota's in-house Connected Company.