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August 23, 2011 Autos Insider | Ford, Toyota team up on hybrid trucks | The Detroit News
Ford, Toyota team up on hybrid trucks
Partnership aimed at boosting fuel efficiency quicker, cheaper
/ The Detroit News
Dearborn — Rivals Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday they will join forces to develop gas-electric hybrid systems for rear-drive pickups and SUVs.
The powerhouse collaboration — Ford is known for pickups and Toyota for small hybrids — combines their strengths to put fuel-efficient trucks on the road faster and for less cost, without compromising the fierce competition between the two. They'll share powertrains, but not vehicle underpinnings.
"Clearly, Ford and Toyota will remain competitors," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of research and development. "By working together, we will be able to offer our customers more affordable technology sooner."
The agreement, prompted by a chance meeting of Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Toyota President Akio Toyoda, does not give the Japanese automaker any of the "secret sauce" that has made Ford the top seller of pickups in the U.S., said Kuzak. An electric hybrid would be an alternative to Ford's popular EcoBoost gasoline engines.
The collaboration will help Ford and Toyota meet proposed government fuel standards that will require automakers' fleets to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Truck standards will be lower.
"It's a win-win for both automakers and for consumers, too," said Eric Fedewa, director of global powertrain forecasts for IHS Automotive in Northville.
Ford and Toyota signed an agreement to split development costs for hybrid systems, as well as telematics technology to improve information and entertainment systems.
The next step for the odd coupling is a feasibility study to determine the technologies and which vehicles will get them. That's expected by next year.
The partnership's first hybrid trucks will be on the road later in this decade. Candidates include the F-150 and Expedition SUV; Toyota has the Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV.
The pairing could prove crucial for both companies.
Ford needs to improve the gas mileage of its F-150, and incremental improvements to existing technology won't be enough, said Veerender Kaul, Automotive & Transportation Industry director for Frost & Sullivan in Mountain View, Calif.
"Total cost of developing a specialized platform together, instead of independently, should knock off 50 percent of the development cost and time," Kaul said.
Conversely, "Toyota doesn't have the truck volume to bring this technology to market," said Aaron Bragman, analyst with IHS Automotive in Northville.
Ford sold 313,000 F-Series trucks through July compared with 47,600 Toyota Tundras. Conversely, Toyota has sold 74,400 Priuses compared with about 17,300 sales of Ford's three hybrids combined through July.
"I see it as Toyota needing Ford's volume more than Ford needs Toyota's technology," Bragman said.
While this would be the first product collaboration between the two automakers, they worked together when Toyota licensed its hybrid technology to Ford for the Escape in 2004.
Ford developed its own system for the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ hybrids, as well as for the C-Max crossover hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid due next year.
The industry is rife with technology alliances, especially with powertrains, to share cost, risk and expertise while gaining economies of scale, Fedewa said.
Ford's collaborations have included its partnership with Mazda Motor Corp.; an alliance with General Motors Co. on 6-speed transmissions; and with PSA Peugeot Citroen for diesels.
Toyota and GM aligned in 1999 to develop hybrids and fuel cell vehicles, but nothing came of it. Their joint assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., did not survive GM's 2009 bankruptcy restructuring.
An alliance of GM, Chrysler Group LLC, BMW AG and Daimler AG for rear-drive hybrids has disbanded.
There are no plans for a Ford-Toyota partnership beyond hybrids and telematics, Kuzak said, and there will be no sharing on front-drive hybrid systems.
Formal talks leading to Monday's announcement began in April, following that chance airport lobby meeting between Mulally and Toyoda.
Detailed negotiations continued between Kuzak and Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's head of research and development.
Kuzak said the thousands of engineers already working on hybrids and telematics will keep their jobs. Most will continue to work in their respective facilities, he said, but at some point they will need to spend time together.
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