Wed, Aug 24, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Ford and Toyota to work together on hybrid trucks

NY Times News Service, DEARBORN, MICHIGAN

Ford Motor Co’s Derrick Kuzak, left, listens as Toyota Motor Corp’s Takeshi Uchiyamada speaks at a press conference in Dearborn, Michigan, on Monday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Ford Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp said on Monday that they would jointly develop a gas-electric hybrid fuel system for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles aimed at keeping larger models affordable as the automakers work to meet stricter fuel-economy standards.

The companies said they did not plan to collaborate on developing the vehicles themselves, instead using the hybrid system they develop to power separate models under the Ford and Toyota brands. The resulting hybrid trucks would go on sale later this decade, they said, without providing a more specific time frame.

“Clearly Ford and Toyota will remain competitors,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president for research and development. “By working together, we will be able to offer our customers more affordable technology sooner.”

In addition, Ford and Toyota said they intended to collaboratively develop new technology for information and entertainment systems in vehicles, with the goal of offering more Internet-based services and useful data to drivers. The companies already are among the industry’s leaders in this area, known as telematics, and their partnership could give them enough leverage to essentially dictate the standards that other automakers use to wirelessly connect mobile phones and other devices to vehicles.

The partnership sprang from informal talks between the chief executives of the two companies, Alan Mulally at Ford and Akio Toyoda at Toyota, that began when the two accidentally crossed paths at an airport, according to Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s executive vice president for research and development. Teams led by Kuzak and Uchiyamada began working together in April.

They said many specifics of the deal had yet to be determined. The companies signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday and expect to enter into a formal agreement next year, after completing a feasibility study that will help them lay out more detailed plans.

Ford makes the top-selling truck in the US, the F-150, and Toyota is the leading producer of hybrid vehicles, having sold 3.3 million since introducing the popular Prius car in 1997. Neither company sells a hybrid truck and other automakers have had little success doing so.

However, proposed fuel-economy standards, announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month, that would require automakers to build much more fuel-efficient vehicles in the years ahead are forcing them to explore more advanced technology. By collaborating, Ford and Toyota hope to reduce the costs and development time of such work and keep hybrid trucks from becoming too expensive or lacking in performance.

“The EPA fuel standards are a big challenge for us automakers,” Uchiyamada said through a translator. “Trucks and SUVs are vehicles that the American society cannot do without. This collaboration we are forming with Ford is not only about lowering carbon dioxide, but making light-duty trucks and SUV’s more affordable.”

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