Rumored Mazda-Toyota tie-up could yield U.S. assembly plant, electrified cars

August 3, 2017

Mazda and Toyota may be ready to take their "it's complicated" relationship to another level.

Japan's Nikkei Asian Review reported Thursday that both automakers' boards of directors will meet Friday before announcing plans for a joint-venture assembly plant in the United States and an agreement to work together on electrified cars.

The rumored assembly plant could produce up to 300,000 cars and SUVs annually, the report indicated. While Toyota has several plants scattered across the Midwestern and Southeastern U.S. (including Georgetown, Kentucky—pictured), Mazda's only North America factory is in Mexico.

MORE: Mazda and Toyota reluctant to adopt Apple CarPlay

Separately, Mazda and Toyota would collaborate on electrified car technology, something Mazda's lineup lacks. Toyota is no stranger to electrified vehicles, but Mazda has no hybrid or fully electric car in the U.S. and has been generally quiet on the subject.

The report said that each automaker could acquire 5 percent of the other as part of the joint-venture.

Representatives from both Mazda and Toyota confirmed the board meetings to The Car Connection but declined to elaborate further.

“In May 2015, Toyota and Mazda signed a memorandum of understanding to explore various areas of collaboration. We intend to submit a proposal to our board of directors today regarding the partnership with Mazda, however, we would like to refrain from providing further comment at this time," a spokesman for Toyota said in a statement.

Mazda and Toyota aren't strangers. For almost two years, Mazda has been building small cars at its plant in Mexico under contract for Toyota—the Toyota Yaris and Yaris iA. Until now, that's as far as a 2015 memorandum of understanding signed by both parties has gone aside from some limited discussion on hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles a few years ago.

Neither automaker is a stranger to collaboration. Toyota owns a slice of Subaru and the two brands worked together on the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 sports cars. Mazda was partially owned by Ford until a few years ago. Today, however, Mazda operates independently and is one of the smallest automakers—a competitive deficit against an increasingly incestuous auto industry made up of players with far deeper pockets.

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