From the oil business to electric vehicles might not seem like a natural progression, but that’s the shift refiner Idemitsu Kosan is planning, according to a report in the Nikkei daily last month — a move that would make it the first non-automaker in Japan to step into the market.
And Idemitsu is not the only one stepping outside of its comfort zone. Tech giant Apple has been creating waves recently as it approaches automakers to scope out who might be up for partnering to produce an Apple-branded autonomous electric vehicle.
Last week, Toyota President Akio Toyoda had a warning for Apple and its ilk: The industry welcomes new entrants, he said, “but after making a vehicle, I’d like them to be prepared to deal with customers and various changes for some 40 years.” Toyoda was similarly dismissive of Tesla in November, saying Tesla isn’t making “real products.”
Whatever that might mean, Tesla appears to be putting Japan’s carmakers on notice for a real price war in the world’s third-largest auto market. Sales of its Model 3 appear to have taken off in Japan since Tesla slashed its price tag by a quarter, Bloomberg reports.
And Nidec Corp. wants a piece of that action. The world’s top supplier of motors for everything from hard drives to power plants is betting it can make a key component for Tesla’s EVs cheaper and better than anyone else, and it’s appealing directly to Musk for a chance to discuss it.
Nissan, meanwhile, plans to expand its portfolio of EVs in the U.S. to include more of its mainstay cars and SUVs. Nissan and Renault have also partnered with Uber to deliver EVs at a discount to its drivers in Europe, while alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors is working in Thailand to develop a system that would enable EVs to power homes in case of blackouts.