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Ford and Toyota to jointly develop hybrid drivetrains for pickups and SUVs

The carmakers hope to improve fuel economy in larger vehicles before new federal standards kick in with the 2017 model year.

August 23, 2011|By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times

Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. said they will work together to develop an advanced hybrid drivetrain system for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

The move represented a strategy by both companies to improve fuel economy in larger vehicles long before stricter federal fuel economy rules take effect with the 2017 model year, said Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Capital.

The new standards are expected to provide extra credits toward meeting fuel efficiency targets for companies that develop hybrid gas-and-electric drivetrains for pickup trucks.

Johnson noted that General Motors Co. had already experimented with hybrids on light trucks and large SUVs and has developed electric boosts, or so-called mild hybrids, in some Buick sedans.

Ford and Toyota have worked independently on rear-wheel drive hybrid systems. The hybrid powertrain will bring greater fuel efficiency to new trucks and SUVs without compromising the capability drivers require in their vehicles, Ford said.

Ford and Toyota said their collaboration would allow them to offer hybrid technologies on these vehicles sooner and more affordably than either company could alone.

"This agreement brings together the capability of two global leaders in hybrid vehicles and hybrid technology to develop a better solution more quickly and affordably for our customers," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of global product development.

Since launching the Prius in Japan in 1997, Toyota has sold about 3.3 million hybrid vehicles, said Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota executive vice president for research and development. "We expect to create exciting technologies that benefit society with Ford — and we can do so through the experience the two companies have in hybrid technology."

The automakers also said they will work together to develop telematics platform standards. Improving telematics, such as Ford's Sync system, will reduce driver distraction and bring more Internet-based services and useful information to consumers globally, Ford said.

The companies also will look at issues concerning cellphone connectivity and Internet communications security in vehicles.

The two automakers signed a memorandum of understanding, and a formal agreement is expected next year.

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