Toyota supplier takes ISO role to catch German rivals in 3 years

Ma Jie and Yuki Hagiwara
Bloomberg News

Toyota Motor Corp.’s biggest supplier said it expects Japanese car and parts makers will catch up with German rivals within three years in setting global standards for key electronic components.

Denso Corp. this year became the first Japanese company in the car industry to helm a sub-committee at the International Organization for Standardization, Susumu Akiyama, head of electronic systems planning at the parts maker, said in an interview. The panel focuses on electronics, including components expected to be used in driverless vehicles.

Denso is taking its first role in the 67-year-old ISO partly to catch up with its biggest rival, Stuttgart-based Robert Bosch GmbH, which has benefited from developing global standards including those for vehicle data transmission, Akiyama said. As carmakers and technology companies including Google Inc. race to develop safety-sensor technologies, Denso sees an opportunity to use standard-setting to place Japanese technology at the center of a new generation of components.

“It’s a very broad field and a key area, especially as the auto industry is developing technologies for autonomous driving,” said Takashi Morimoto, an auto industry consultant at Frost & Sullivan in Tokyo. It’s “a good opportunity for Japanese players,” he said.

Denso already has the biggest share in the electronic parts market, an industry Credit Suisse Group AG predicts will almost triple to 30 trillion yen ($289 billion) in 2030 from a projected 11 trillion yen in 2015, boosted partly by autonomous driving technologies.

Companies in Germany, including Daimler AG and Bosch, have collaborated to dominate the crafting of global auto industry standards, even though German automakers produced fewer cars globally last year than Japanese companies, according to data compiled by IHS Automotive.

“We are aiming at bringing in technologies originated from Japan,” said Akiyama. “Japanese technologies are not inferior to Germany’s. We just need to make active use of the standardization scheme.”

The ISO sub-committee Denso now heads has published 16 standards so far this year and 21 in 2013 among more than 200 over the past two decades.

Japan’s largest car and parts manufacturers have in the past stayed out of ISO standard-setting committees to avoid extra costs as they focused on developing proprietary standards to set their vehicles apart from rivals, Akiyama said.