Toyota and Ford today announced a deal to collaborate on hybrid-drive technology and development aimed at light trucks and SUVs. The agreement is expected to lead to new fuel-efficient powertrain designs that will begin showing up on light-duty vehicles sold under both the Ford and Toyota brands in the later part of the decade.
No announcement has been made as to which platforms will be targeted, but both companies will need to greatly improve the fuel economy of their pickup and sport utility vehicles leading in to the 2025 model year, when the United States’ Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard is slated to hit 54.5 mpg. Toyota already manufactures the most popular hybrid in the United States, the Prius, and Ford plans to triple its hybrid output to more than 100,000 vehicles per year by 2013.
Currently, both Ford and Toyota employ similar hybrid architectures in vehicles like the Prius and Ford Fusion hybrid, but both are tailored toward front-wheel drive sedans and smaller crossover SUVs. In order to provide the added power needed to produce a towing capacity found in vehicles like the Toyota Tundra or Ford F-150, the carmakers will need to develop a new, rear-wheel drive hybrid system.
As Toyota vice president Takeshi Uchiyamada said today, sales of heavier vehicles—which currently lack in hybrid options—show no signs of slowing down. “Those kinds of models are indispensable to American customers,” said Uchiyamada.
Due in part to built-in demand from commercial buyers like contractors and commercial fleets, the best-selling vehicle in the United States continues to be the Ford F-150 pickup truck, despite the recent uptick in gas prices. In order to satisfy federal fuel-economy requirements, makers of popular light-duty models will need to improve the efficiency of their most fuel-thirsty vehicles.
F-150 buyers appear to already be eager for fuel economy. Since Ford introduced a V6 EcoBoost model of the truck this year it has led all F-150 models in sales, accounting for 40 percent of purchases, thanks in part to its EPA-rated 22 mpg in fuel economy.