BMW and Toyota announced today that they had signed a memorandum of understanding that will see the two automakers expand their research and development partnership. In March, Toyota and BMW agreed to work together on lithium-ion battery development, and in late 2011 the pair inked a deal to share diesel engines for the European market.
Today's agreement comprises four different components: joint development of a hydrogen fuel-cell system, the architecture for a new lightweight sports car, collaboration on electric powertrains, and work on lightweight technologies.
"Toyota is strong in environment-friendly hybrids and fuel cells… I believe BMW's strength is developing sports cars," Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said in a statement. "I get so excited thinking about the cars that will result from this relationship."
It seems Toyota will be able to learn much from BMW, as the German automaker already is developing its i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid cars, and is experimenting with aluminum and carbon fiber composites to reduce vehicle weight. A report earlier this week suggested that Toyota might allow BMW to use its famed Hybrid Synergy Drive, a version of which powers the Prius hybrid, in future models.
As for sports cars, Toyota has already collaborated with Subaru to design the Toyota GT86/ Subaru BRZ/ Scion FR-S triplets. It's possible this deal means Toyota will work together with BMW on something like a next-generation Z4, but it's still uncertain at this time.
"Both companies, Toyota and the BMW Group, aspire to be the best at everything they do," BMW chairman of the board Dr. Norbert Reithofer said in a statement. "I look forward to the continued cooperation between our two companies."
At a meeting in late 2011 (pictured), BMW agreed to supply Toyota with 1.6- and 2.0-liter turbodiesel engines. Starting in 2014, those engines will be used in several small European Toyotas. The automakers also agreed to work together on developing lithium-ion batteries. Then in March 2012, BMW and Toyota solidified their deal to work together on lighter, higher-performance lithium-ion batteries. Doing so could increase the range of electric or hybrid cars.
Sources: BMW, Toyota