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Toyota to launch social network for people who like to befriend car dealerships

Toyota to launch social network for people who like to befriend car dealerships
Dana Wollman
Dana Wollman|@danawollman|May 23, 2011 2:54 PM
Man, social networks have taken on a loose definition as of late, haven't they? Toyota just announced plans to launch one for its customers, and while our initial reaction was an eye-roll and sighs of "what the world needs now," the truth is that it's really just a system that uses Twitter and Facebook to let you know when something's amiss. Dubbed Toyota Friend (and built on Salesforce.com's private Chatter network), the service will dish up battery power warnings to electric vehicle owners, along with maintenance tips -- advice that can pop up on phones, tablets, and "other advanced mobile devices." In addition to their friendly neighborhood car dealerships, folks can befriend other cars and the friends and family who own them, though it's unclear from the press release below why you'd care. (Okay, we suppose if we had a teenage driver we might want to know if they were about to break curfew.) If that all sounds like bunk, you probably won't get a test drive soon, anyway -- the service is slated to launch in 2012, in Japan, and, initially, for electric and hybrid vehicle owners only.
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Salesforce.com and Toyota Form Strategic Alliance to Build Toyota Friend Social Network for Toyota Customers and Their Cars

Toyota Friend to Be Powered by Salesforce Chatter
SALESFORCE.COM LOGO Salesforce.com logo. (PRNewsFoto/salesforce.com) SAN FRANCISCO, CA UNITED STATES

TOKYO, May 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Salesforce.com [NYSE: CRM] and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) [NYSE: TM] announced today that they have formed a strategic alliance to build Toyota Friend, a private social network for Toyota customers and their cars. Toyota Friend will be powered by Salesforce Chatter, a private social network used by businesses, and will be offered, first in Japan, initially with Toyota's electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHV) due in 2012.

Toyota Friend will be a private social network that connects Toyota customers with their cars, their dealership, and with Toyota. Toyota Friend will provide a variety of product and service information as well as essential maintenance tips, creating a rich car ownership experience. For example, if an EV or PHV is running low on battery power, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to re-charge in the form of a "tweet"-like alert. In addition, while Toyota Friend will be a private social network, customers can choose to extend their communication to family, friends, and others through public social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The service will also be accessible through smart phones, tablet PCs, and other advanced mobile devices.

Regarding the alliance, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said:

"Toyota and salesforce.com share a vision to take the auto industry into the future. Social and mobile technologies will transform the car ownership experience, and we are excited to be Toyota's partner in this transformation."

TMC President Akio Toyoda said:

"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 is a fast-growing enterprise cloud computing company that has been in operation for more than 12 years. The company has nearly 100,000 customers worldwide, including large enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses, and government organizations. The company's social, open, and mobile technologies represent the next generation of enterprise cloud computing.

To date, TMC has developed its own telematics services to connect people, cars and their surroundings. Through Toyota Friend, TMC aims to offer its telematics services worldwide. Moving forward, TMC plans to advance toward the realization of future mobility by teaming up proactively with global IT companies.

Although TMC and salesforce.com will launch their partnership with the building of Toyota Friend, in the future the companies plan to develop cloud services for TMC's open platform and create new business opportunities leveraging their respective strengths.

Salesforce.com and TMC will each make investments in Toyota Media Service Co. (TMS), which oversees TMC's global cloud platform development. Salesforce.com will invest 223 million yen and TMC will invest 442 million yen. Microsoft Corporation, which on April 6 announced a strategic partnership with TMC to build a global platform for next generation telematics services, will invest 350 million yen.