BMW and Toyota have signed a binding agreement to co-develop a new sports car. The agreement is a joint venture first outlined in a memorandum of understanding in June 2012, which also includes fuel-cell development, research into lightweight technology, and lithium-air battery technology.
The two firms have agreed to "define a joint platform concept for a mid-size sports vehicle" by the end of 2013.
No further details on the sports car have been revealed by either party, but Toyota is known to be keen to launch a successor to the Celica as a bigger brother to last year's GT86. And by the time the co-developed model would make it to market, a replacement for BMW’s Z4 would be due. The recent mid-life changes to the Z4 were understood to be minor due to falling sales in the segment making little business case for substantial investment in the current model.
The sports car will make use of the lightweight technology development also outlined in today’s agreement. The research will look at vehicle bodies made of "cutting-edge materials such as reinforced composites". The technology is also earmarked for other BMW and Toyota vehicles in addition to the co-developed sports car.
The fuel-cell development project is a long-term one, with the aim of getting the technology to market by 2020. The two firms will co-develop a fuel-cell stack, hybrid system, hydrogen tank, electric motor and battery as part of a complete system. Toyota and BMW also plan to jointly assess hydrogen infrastructure and setting industry standards.
The battery development outlines plans for the firms to co-develop lithium-air battery technology. This has a greater energy density than existing lithium-ion batteries, so the new fuel cells will be smaller and able to store more energy.
BMW and Toyota have a number of other agreements in place as part of their wide-ranging strategic partnership. These include BMW supplying diesel engines for Toyotas in Europe, and a long-term outlook to "next-generation, environment-friendly vehicles and technologies".