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Ford, Toyota team up to develop hybrid tech

Blue and red equals green: Ford's Derrick Kuzak (left) and Toyota's Takeshi Uchiyamada at the announcement of the hybrid technology tie-up between their respective companies.

Rear-drive SUV/LCV hybrid drivetrains to be co-developed by Ford and Toyota

General News logo23 Aug 2011

FORD and Toyota have become unlikely bedfellows in a deal to jointly develop rear-wheel-drive hybrid technology for use in light trucks and SUVs.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed by the two companies this week, the technology will be integrated into rear-drive light trucks “later this decade”, meaning future hybrid variants of Ranger and HiLux utes – and possibly also the Mazda BT-50, which was co-developed with Ford – could one day share key componentry.

It might also be applied to future variants of the Australian-built Territory, although the mid-size SUV’s future beyond 2016 is still to be determined.

Ford Australia SUV and LCV product communications manager Peter Fadeyev told GoAuto it was “too early to say” whether an electrified variant of the Australian-designed and engineered T6 Ranger was on the cards.

The companies also agreed to collaborate on in-car telematics with the aim of establishing standards and technologies that will make next-generation systems more convenient, easier and safer to use on the move.

The deal announced overnight in Detroit will see the two automotive giants – which have been separately working on similar systems – bring their technology together and work as equal partners on the hybrid drivetrain.

80 center imageLeft: Upcoming Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux facelift, Toyota RAV4 EV, Ford Fusion Hybrid.

The goal is to develop an “all-new architecture” designed to “deliver the capability truck and SUV customers demand while providing greater fuel economy”.

While both companies will share technology and components, each will independently integrate the system into their future vehicles.

Ford and Toyota will also have their own sets of calibration criteria so the system matches the “performance dynamics characteristics” befitting each brand.

Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally said the tie-up would enable the brands to provide customers with “the very best affordable, advanced powertrains”.

“This is the kind of collaborative effort that is required to address the big global challenges of energy independence and environmental sustainability,” he said.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said the company – which is world-renowned for its hybrid Prius hatch as well Corolla and Camry hybrids plus its hybrid-heavy Lexus line-up – was “extremely proud” to be developing a hybrid system with Ford.

Mr Toyoda described the deal as “an important building block for future mobility in the US” and an opportunity to “provide people in America automobiles that exceed their expectations”.

As GoAuto has reported, Toyota is no stranger to developing its electrified vehicles with help of other brands, having recently announced it will put electric RAV4 crossovers into production in Canada for the North American market using technology from Silicon Valley-based EV specialist Tesla.

German-French joint ventures to develop hybrid technology are also in the works with BMW and PSA having joined forces, as have Daimler and Renault.

The Blue Oval already sells hybrid variants of its Fusion sedan, related luxury Lincoln MKZ and Escape SUV in North America, where it is also preparing to launch its zero-emission Focus Electric and has hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its C-Max people-mover in the pipeline.

Ford Group vice-president for global product development Derrick Kuzak said: “Ford achieved a breakthrough with the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and we intend to do this again for a new group of truck and SUV buyers – customers we know very well.”

Telematics systems that bring internet connectivity into a car to offer traffic updates, satellite-navigation enhancements, email, search engine and social networking functionality are fast becoming the norm and will become increasingly useful for helping drivers of electrified vehicles to locate vacant charging points or remotely monitor their car’s battery status.

Ford’s offerings, dubbed Sync and MyFord Touch, developed with Microsoft, are offered in some countries, while Toyota has developed similar systems called G-Book (G-Link for its Lexus brand) and will debut its new Entune service on the forthcoming Prius V.

Mr Kuzak said working with Toyota on such systems “can only enhance our customers’ experience with their vehicles”.

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