The brand Daihatsu, known for small cars and especially mini-terrains and SUVs such as the Feroza and Terios, exited the European markets more than a decade ago to focus on the domestic market, where it is currently not doing well.

However, it was recently announced that this brand will attempt a relaunch in the small electric vehicle sector, particularly commercial vehicles, a move that promises to bring it back to the global markets.

A new course

The statement comes from new president Masahiro Inoue, who in announcing the company's restructuring plan spoke of how the company intends to meet the challenge posed by mini BEVs.

This is a direction in which Daihatsu had already started to move in, but had stopped in 2023 due to the scandal that emerged over safety tests that did not meet requirements. The company had allegedly glossed over and even rigged the results concerning side crashes and airbag behaviour.

This investigation led to the suspension of production, which also involved models produced for other brands such as Toyota itself and Subaru, as well as new product development, accelerating the company restructuring still underway and the change at the top.

Now, according to Inoue himself, Daihatsu will start again with battery-powered commercial vehicles, although no timetable has yet been set for the completion of the design and development phases and the hypothetical launch of the first new models.

On the hunt for low-cost electrics

The small battery vehicle sector is actually a point of interest for the entire Japanese industry and beyond as the increasingly concrete shadow of Chinese competitors is in fact pushing the giants of the Rising Sun, as well as American and European ones, to seek collaborations and synergies to contain costs and produce affordable vehicles, especially in the lower segments.

Nissan and Mitsubishi, now united by their alliance with Renault, have already been cooperating for some time, and recently Nissan itself has also started a collaboration with Honda, while Toyota in recent years has consolidated its collaboration with Suzuki, Subaru and also Mazda, particularly in the electric segment.

Honda itself, which is preparing to launch its new N-Van e:, had announced in 2023 a collaboration that was to lead to the birth of an electric commercial vehicle made together with Toyota and Suzuki, the production of which Daihatsu itself was to take charge of, but was suspended because of the safety scandal.

Process revision

In addition to the appointment of Masahiro Inoue, previously head of Toyota's South American and Caribbean divisions, Toyota has decided on a tightening of the supervision of the operations of its subsidiary Daihatsu. The giant will take control of the key stages of compact car development for the international market, while Daihatsu will adopt a series of management reforms to prevent a repeat of the 2023 incident.

Among these will be a re-extension of product development times estimated at around 40 per cent and a reorganisation of resources, which has been cited by Daihatsu managers as one of the causes that forced them to take shortcuts on testing.

A problem, in fact, that actually involved several companies entirely within Toyota, so much so that between 2023 and the beginning of this year, other Group brands such as Hino, which deals with pick-up trucks, Toyota itself and even the Lexus brand had to suspend deliveries of some models due to negligence in emissions or quality tests, as well as misconduct that also slowed down the definition of the strategic collaboration started with Germany's Daimler for industrial vehicles.