Ford plans own truck hybrid system after split with Toyota

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Ford Motor Co., gaining on hybrid car sales leader Toyota Motor Corp., said Tuesday it will end a partnership with Japan’s largest automaker to develop gasoline- electric systems for pickups and sport-utility vehicles.

Ford is on track to bring its rear-wheel-drive hybrid system to market later this decade, Raj Nair, the company’s product development chief, said by telephone. Toyota and Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford mutually agreed to end their collaboration after the research and development phase, he said.

“Both parties gained from each other’s expertise and insight,” Nair said in the interview. “We’ve developed a lot of expertise in-house and determined we could deliver the system on our own.” Nair declined to be more specific on the timing.

Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally and Toyota President Akio Toyoda personally negotiated their tie-up before the two automakers made the collaboration public in August 2011. Since then, Ford has boosted sales of hybrid and plug-in versions of the Fusion sedan and the C-Max wagon in the U.S. to challenge Toyota, whose Prius has dominated the hybrid market for more than a decade.

Ford and Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota will continue to work jointly on standards for in-car technology and communication systems, Nair said. The two automakers have signed an agreement in China to share emergency and customer-call centers, he said.

A feasibility study on collaborating on hybrids for larger vehicles began after the companies made the 2011 announcement, Mike Michels, a Toyota spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

After completing that study, “we have agreed to develop hybrid systems individually,” he said, without elaborating. Along with cooperation on telematics, the companies “will consider other areas for future collaboration as well,” Michels said.

Nair said such joint work would be “across the lineup and that’s global in nature.”

Ford boosted its electric-drive deliveries to 46,197 in this year’s first half, more than five times its year-earlier volume. Toyota led with 176,506 such sales, up 4.4 percent, as industrywide deliveries climbed at least 23 percent to more than 287,000, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

Toyota, the world’s largest seller of gasoline-electric autos, has sold more than 2 million hybrid cars and light trucks in the U.S., accounting for 70 percent of all such sales in the region, the company said Tuesday.

President Barack Obama won an agreement from automakers in 2011 to double the Corporate Average Fuel Economy for vehicles sold in the U.S. to 54.5 miles (88 kilometers) per gallon by 2025. That’s spurring more electrified vehicle production from automakers including Ford, which plans to triple output this year compared with 2011 levels, Nair said today.

Ford and Toyota have declined to say which trucks and SUVs will use the jointly developed hybrid technology. Ford’s F- Series pickup is the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., and the automaker sells several SUV models, such as the Ford Explorer. Toyota sells the Tundra large pickup, Tacoma small pickup and SUVs such as the Highlander and Sequoia.

Ford was the largest recipient of low-interest federal loans aimed at producing more fuel-efficient vehicles. The company in 2009 was approved for $5.9 billion in Energy Department loans that it’s used to develop products including its hybrids. Ford began repaying the loans last year, according to the company’s annual 10-K filing.

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