Who moved the car! Toyota Grabs pace towards mobility

POSTED BY Yamin Vong ON 07 August 2018


Who moved the car!


Transport Minister YB Anthony Loke is a practical and no-nonsense guy. Recently, he vetoed a Malaysian start-up that desired to introduce motorcycle-hailing.

I thought that was a fair decision. Now, after having been in Jakarta for the Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show (GIIAS) and as a user of the motorcycle- hailing services there, I’m certain that he made the right call.

Motorcyclists in Jakarta ride at a sensible pace, what the police would describe as an appropriate speed. You can’t ride fast in Jakarta anyway because:

  1. The streets are mostly congested.
  2. The toll highways are off-limits to motorcycles
  3. As much as 95 per cent of the bikes are small engined (below 150cc) under-bones or scooters and with two people on board, the suspension bottoms out at the innumerable speed bumps and pot holes.

So, when my well-meaning Indonesian colleague worried about me hailing a motorcycle ride rather than a Grab or Bluebird taxi, I told him that my real worry was about wearing the loaner helmet. While I didn’t get any kutu (bed bugs or hair lice), wearing a public helmet was the most dangerous aspect of hailing a motorcycle ride in Jakarta. Touch wood.

And if you’re going to save time by hailing a motorcycle ride, your Grab app works in Indonesia. Just invoke the ride button rather than the “transport” button.

Go-Jek is an Indonesian company and being the first mover there, it also has the biggest population of motorcyclist “partners”.

However, its motorcyclists had many excuses not to turn up. “Tyre puncture” was one. “Saya muntah (I vomited)” was another. Yet another Go-Jek motorcyclist just did not answer the message nor our calls. My Indonesian colleague and I had a good laugh over the not-so-imaginative excuses.

The Grab service however was significantly more reliable. All the three rides I hailed turned up.

One tip: go to the bus stop (Bus Halte) for the pick-up point; this from the context of wanting a ride from the huge malls that dot southern Jakarta, Asean’s largest city with a 10 million population.


But having said that, the real story is not about Grab or Go-Jek.

It’s about the tectonic shifts taking place in the world automotive industry.

Car companies are looking beyond making cars. They are doubling down on the inexorable tide of mobility, not the traditional model of car ownership. People want to be mobile. The world is moving towards a sharing economy – ride-hailing, car sharing, food delivery etc.

So, today, thinking about making a third national car is so uncool. Toyota Motor Corporation, the world’s most profitable car company, if not the biggest, last month bet USD1 billion to buy a stake in Singapore-based Grab Holdings Inc. valued at USD10 billion.

TMC’s investment into ride-hailing, almost double GM’s purchase of a stake in Lyft in 2016, would have been greeted by a collective sigh of relief from Japanese automotive industry participants who had fretted that Japan was trailing behind the US and Europe in mobility service.

For us in Malaysia? Well, just think that Grab is started by Anthony Tan from a family of self-made business people of the Tan Chong Group.

Toyota’s stake in Grab is probably going to mean that the mobility service could be provided by Toyota cars. November last year, Grab completed one billion rides.

Now, that is big data that Toyota can crunch to analyse what people need.

Sometime this month, Alphabet’s subsidiary, Waymo will launch its pilot mobility programme in Phoenix, Arizona.

Its autonomous car will pick up participating Phoenix, Metro workers from their home to Metro stations and vice versa.

So, wouldn’t it be better for Malaysia to think about sustainability mobility solutions, starting with the nurturing of a new market segment including electric vehicles.