Toyota invests $394 million in flying taxi startup Joby Aviation

Joby Aviation's Aircraft in Santa Cruz, CA (Photo: Joby Aviation)

Joby Aviation, a California-based electric air taxi startup, has raised $590 million in Series C financing that includes a $394 million investment from Toyota Motor Corp., which led the funding round. 

Other notable investors include prior participants SPARX Group, Intel Capital, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group and AME Cloud Ventures. New investors are Baillie Gifford and Global Oryx. 

This financing round brings Joby Aviation’s total investment to $720 million, giving a significant boost to the company’s objective to design and develop an electric air taxi service —- a solution that Toyota hopes will make it a pioneer in the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) space. 

In recent years, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been bullish about technology and mobility trends like mobility-as-a-service, on-demand mobility, autonomous driving and VTOL vehicles. OEMs are investing heavily in these segments and partner with market incumbents or with promising startups to ensure they are not left behind in the new-age mobility race. 

Toyota has been strategic in its investments, having a major stake in car-sharing marketplace Getaround, on-demand cab-hailing startup Grab and connected car services company Airbiquity. Toyota has a long-standing interest in Joby, being part of its 2018 secretive investment round and helping it raise $100 million. 

Though Joby has shielded information on its VTOL aircraft’s technological specifications, it can be understood that the aircraft has six rotors and five seats, inclusive of the cockpit. Joby claims the aircraft can hit a top speed of 200 mph and travel 150 miles on a single charge. 

“The aircraft is 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing and near-silent when flying overhead,” said the company in a statement. 

Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said, “We are building a new system for transportation to transform your daily life, at greater safety and, in time, at a similar cost to driving.” 

Bevirt commented that Joby’s collaboration with Toyota will provide it “unprecedented commitment of money and resources” and also help it gain an edge in the market by harnessing Toyota’s engineering and manufacturing prowess. 

Akio Toyoda, CEO and president of Toyota, said, “Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota, and while we continue our work in the automobile business, this agreement sets our sights to the sky.

“As we take up the challenge of air transportation together with Joby, an innovator in the emerging eVTOL space, we tap the potential to revolutionize future transportation and life. Through this new and exciting endeavor, we hope to deliver freedom of movement and enjoyment to customers everywhere, on land, and now, in the sky,” Toyoda said.

With this investment round, Toyota will have a seat at Joby’s board table, which will be assumed by the company’s executive vice president, Shigeki Tomoyama. Toyota will share its expertise in manufacturing, quality and cost controls for the development and production of the VTOL aircraft. This is expected to smoothen the FAA certification process, while also expediting commercial deployment.