Toyota and Salesforce.com team to build Toyota Friend social network
Toyota has teamed with Salesforce.com to build Toyota Friend, a social network connecting cars, dealers and the automaker.
Toyota Friend is set to launch in Japan in 2012, first with Toyota electric cars and later with plug-in hybrids, before rolling out to other countries, Toyota said in a statement.
The social network will not be a public one, but rather built on Salesforce's Chatter service, which provides private social networks for offices and corporations.
But Toyota Friend users will be able to integrate their activity on the network with Facebook and Twitter if they want to, the automaker said.
Toyota Friend will update drivers with "product and service information as well as essential maintenance tips," Toyota said. If an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid "is running low on battery power, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to recharge in the form of a 'tweet'-like alert."
Toyota drivers also will be able to access Toyota Friend through smartphones, tablets and other advanced mobile devices.
Toyota Motor Corp. 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."
In a Monday demo at one of Toyota's Tokyo showrooms, a plug-in Prius hybrid sent a message to an owner’s cellphone, reminding him that he should charge his car overnight, according to a report from the Associated Press.
In the message, the car identified itself as “Pre-boy,” a nickname given to the car by the owner, the report said.
After the owner plugged his car into a charging station, the car sent a message over the prototype Toyota Friend network saying, "The charge will be completed by 2:15 a.m. Is that OK? See you tomorrow," the AP report said.
Officials from Salesforce and Toyota weren't available Monday to comment on just how much information the social network will send back to Toyota and its dealers, the financial terms surrounding the deal or whether Toyota Friend would integrate with the planned cloud-based telematics system the automaker is building with Microsoft that would also launch in 2012.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, alongside a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid car, addresses a joint news conference with Salesforce.com in Tokyo on May 23, 2011. Credit: Yuriko Nakao / Reuters