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Ford and Toyota to work together on rear-drive hybrid for trucks

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 00:00:00 -0700

Engineers from Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. will work together to develop a hybrid powertrain for use on rear-drive trucks and SUVs, the companies said on Monday. The automakers also will collaborate on basics for future in-car information technology, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The rear-drive hybrid powertrain is expected to be ready for use later this decade. The goal is to improve the fuel economy of trucks and SUVs without cutting back on their ability to tow or haul payload, said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's head of global product development.

While Ford and Toyota will work together to develop the hybrid powertrain, it's up to each automaker to fit it to individual vehicle platforms.

The Ford-Toyota rear-drive hybrid powertrain would give the automakers technology that competes against the Two-Mode rear-drive hybrid system jointly developed by General Motors, the then-DaimlerChrysler and BMW. GM uses the system in its full-size pickups and SUVs.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, head of Toyota's research and development group, noted that American consumers are unwilling to give up trucks and SUVs. So working with Ford will speed up creation of technology that makes those vehicles pollute less and remain affordable, he said.

Toyota and Ford, whose vehicle lineups include several rear-drive trucks and SUVs, also face government mandates that will boost fuel-economy regulations. Automakers must meet a fleet average of 35.5 mpg by 2016, and full-size trucks face the potential of annual increases in fuel-economy mandates of up to 5 percent a year in the 2020s. But automakers might get fuel-economy credits for using hybrid technologies in their trucks.

The collaboration effort started with talks between Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Toyota president Akio Toyoda in April. Teams headed by Kuzak and Uchiyamada then looked at potential projects, narrowing the focus to the rear-drive hybrid and in-car entertainment technologies.

By Dale Jewett