December (Dec 12): Honda Motor Co., the world’s largest motorcycle maker, has become a strategic investor in Grab as part of a partnership to expand the startup’s bike-hailing operations in Southeast Asia.

Grab’s alliance with Honda is part of its expansion strategy for the region as it moves beyond traditional car-hailing, where it competes with Uber Technologies Inc.

Grab now offers a similar service with motorcycles where a driver will pick up passengers and give them rides, a business model pioneered in the region by Go-Jek. The deal also marks the Japanese automaker’s first investment in a ride-hailing company.

Southeast Asia’s largest ride-sharing app, with a valuation said to surpass $3 billion ($4.3 billion), now plans to roll out its GrabBike motorcycle-hailing service beyond the three markets in which it’s currently available.

“Motorcycle is our fastest growing segment,” Grab President Ming Maa said in an interview Monday. “It’s a very important segment for us to continue growing.”

Ride-hailing startups have begun to team up with traditional automakers around the world as competition intensifies in the burgeoning field of on-demand transportation. General Motors Co. joined forces with both Lyft Inc. and Uber, which has also partnered with Toyota Motor Corp. and Volvo Cars. Volkswagen AG created a mobility services division under the Moia brand and invested US$300 million in ride-hailing provider Gett Inc.

Grab recently entered into a partnership with Tokyo Century Corp. to collaborate on leasing and rental cars for drivers. In Indonesia, it teamed up with the Lippo Group, the Indonesian conglomerate founded by billionaire tycoon Mochtar Riady. His grandson, John Riady, is spearheading Lippo’s foray into e-commerce, MatahariMall. In Singapore, Grab partnered with CapitaLand to integrate its services with the local firm’s network of shopping malls, serviced apartments and offices.

Honda and Grab plan to collaborate on driver-education programs to promote motorbike safety, efforts to reduce traffic in urban areas through ride-sharing and other technological advancements, according to a statement Monday. Grab, which operates in 34 cities across six countries, currently offers motorbike-hailing services in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The deal marks the first time Honda is investing in a ride-sharing company, according to company spokeswoman Tomoko Takemori. Honda will use its own technologies to ease urban congestion and cut emissions by employing more environmentally friendly motorbikes. The two companies will set up teams to study details of the alliance, she added.