Chrysler's Press Flip-Flops on Prius Funding

When Jim Press was the top executive for Toyota USA, he said that the Japanese government never directly aided the company in the development of the Toyota Prius. Now, as president of Chrysler, his tune has changed. On March 20, Press told BusinessWeek, “The Japanese government paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system that went into the Toyota Prius.”

Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco told the Associated Press that the comments made by Press are wholly untrue. “I can say 100 percent that Toyota received absolutely no support—no money, no grants— from the Japanese government for the development of the Prius,” said Nolasco.

Why would Jim Press flip-flop? American carmakers have long alleged that Toyota has unfairly benefited from government subsidies. Toyota and Honda debuted the first hybrids to the American market in 2000, and today sell 90 percent of the hybrids in the United States. Ford was the first U.S. company to introduce a first hybrid , the Ford Escape, in 2003. General Motors has a number of hybrids in the U.S., although production and sales are very low. Chrysler’s first hybrids—due out in summer 2008—are a pair of 5.7-liter hemi-powered full-size SUVs.

Is Press forgetting that the U.S.-government, under the Clinton Administration’s Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, spent more than a billion dollars to produce three 80-mpg hybrid prototypes, including the Chrysler ESX? The vehicles were never put into production. What about the continued work and taxpayer support of the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium?

Hopes for a clear-cut resolution to the mystery disintegrated when the Chrysler executive tried yesterday to elaborate on his initial March 20th remarks. As Business Week reports, Press said in a statement through a spokesperson, “The Japanese government strongly supported R & D investment in battery development, and the Prius and other Japanese models benefited from that investment.” But BusinessWeek dug up Press’s testimony during a congressional hearing on auto emissions and fuel economy, when as Toyota president he was asked by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) if the Japanese government funded hybrid technology research that lead to the development of the Prius. His response was unequivocal: “No, sir.”

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  • Boom Boom

    So, either Press lied to congress (which is a crime….) or he’s lying now. Want some cheese with that whine, Chrysler?

    If the US automakers would just BUILD a legitimate hybrid in large enough quantities for people to buy them, they’d sell them. Look at the Escape Hybrid. Ford sells every one they make without discounts. (Now it appears they might even be adding an additional premium at the dealers.)
    Even if it were true that Japan had help it’s own hybrid auto industry along, is that something to blame Toyota for? If that was the case, the US auto industry should have asked for development help instead of fighting CAFE standards.

    The US auto industry has no one to blame but itself.

  • Glenn Louderback

    There first hybrid is going to be a Hemi powered huge SUV? What is Chrysler thinking?

  • HybridHungerer

    everyone now: “Bring back the ESX!” –

  • dhartman

    The tradidtional “big-car” companies want to keep making big cars (and trucks). GM just released the Pontiac G8 and who asked for that? Yes, GM execs and what is their excuse for not selling the hybirds they have developed — lack of manufacturing capacity and unavailability of batteries.

    Hogwash! Ford and GM continue to scale back production and close plants AND the batteries they use in their current hybrids and mild-hybrids are not even the advanced lithium type. The basic manufacturing capacity is there and the batteries could have certainly been there. The hybrids of GM and Ford cannot generally be found on the lots and if you find one there is probably a supplemental sticker on it that adds $1,500 called a “regional adjustment.” With their lack of will hybrids will be slow coming!

    So we get Toyota going strong with hybrids (and announcing more plant capacity being brought on line) and Honda getting ready to mount their second attack with a new “affordable” hybrid soon. While GM and Ford back-pedal and Chrysler just whines!

  • GR

    Their Hemi-Hybrid SUV will probably have the same results as the V6 Accord Hybrid…it’ll barely sell and a few years later it will be pulled.

  • sean

    He said so before because he was receiving money (salary) from Toyota. He says the another way now because he’s receiving money (salary) from Chrysler.

  • VaPrius

    Toyota has benefit 100% from smarter management.

  • sean

    VaPrius is right. Toyota (and Honda) benefit from good vision for the future. Some guy called “Product Guru” who has very poor vision for the industry still holds top job at a big American Company. No wonder. : (

  • pamela

    I totally agree…why are US automakers targeting a segment of the market that is clearly NOT looking at fuel efficiency in the auto choices and not the practical sedans or family minivans???

  • E. Richardson

    We have a Chevy 2005 avalanche and a 2002 T-bird. This week we are trading them both in on a new Prius. We do most of our driving in the city and very little on the highway. So it only makes complete sense. Remember when sense use to be common?
    For the last few years we have been wondering why if there is such a thing as possible shortages of fuel etc. Why they continue to build these massive R.V.’s and power boats that only get 4-5 miles per gallon? And why don’t they just shut down the gas stations one or two days a week? The banks usually close down from noon on Saturday till Monday.

  • Fraw

    Based on an acura blog, they held a car and truck test (Acura-Chrysler). Driving characteristics are outlined. Standard and optional equipment is detailed. Hope they could merge in the near future.

  • Sophie

    I had heard that there had been fuel efficient auto prototypes made a while back by American car manufacturers that were destroyed. Is there any truth to this? I am interested in the details.