Toyota Motor Co. (TMC) is launching a new social-media platform called "Toyota Friend," essentially a network for Toyota customers that includes a real-time Internet connection to their vehicles, dealers and Toyota itself, and a social media platform connecting owners to each other and the company. The Toyota Friend, which represents collaboration between Toyota and Salesforce.com, will be powered by Salesforce Chatter, a private social network.
Toyota Media Service (TMS) President Akio Toyoda said in a statement: "Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication. The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation. I am always calling for Toyota to make ever-better cars. The alliance that we announce today is an important step forward in achieving that goal."
Salesforce.com and TMC will each make investments in TMS, which oversees TMC's global cloud platform development. Salesforce.com will invest ¥223 million and TMC will invest ¥442 million. Microsoft Corporation, which on April 6 announced a strategic partnership with TMC to build a global platform for next-generation telematics services, will invest ¥335 million.
Robin Daniels, director of product marketing at Salesforce.com, tells Marketing Daily that the collaboration gets the car into the social media space, which it has not been part of heretofore. "The future is really going social and mobile, and the ultimate mobile device is your car. But right now it is disconnected from what's going on in terms of other drivers, dealers, and owners. This network gives customers an opportunity to connect in a new way and in real time."
The deal makes Toyota one of 80,000 companies around the world that use Salesforce.com's Chatter platform, which is kind of a closed social network with a Facebook-like aspect. Outside of the car, the "Toyota Friend" platforms presented as a Web and mobile page show each of a customer's vehicles and real-time data about what's going on inside that vehicle, since the platform uses wireless diagnostic transmissions from Toyota vehicles on things like tire pressure, fuel and oil levels, or in the case of electric or hybrid, charge levels. If an electric vehicle or partial hybrid vehicle is running low on battery power, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to recharge in the form of a "tweet"-like alert.
The owner page also shows a Google map beside each vehicle that indicates its location. Dealers will also have access to the diagnostic data on the page. The Chatter area, which is accessed via the Toyota Friend portal, is the social network aspect. The Chatter page lets users get updates, connect with other users/Toyota owners, and share information. The closed social network can also connect to the wider world through Twitter and Facebook. The service will also be accessible through smartphones, tablet PCs, and other advanced mobile devices. The platform can also be accessed within the vehicle via a "Toyota Friend" icon on a Toyota car or truck's telematics/ navigation screen on the console.
Daniels says Toyota approached Salesforce in January this year, "so it's been a quick turnaround. They had wanted to develop the next generation of services for drivers. They really liked our cloud computing infrastructure and our Chatter platform. They wanted to create a new experience for drivers."
He says the first iteration will roll out initially in 2012 in Japan and then worldwide, and that "out of the box" the Chatter platform comes in 20 languages.