by Patrick Rall
While it might seem like an unlikely coupling of two major world automotive powers, Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motors announced that they would be joining forces to develop future hybrid light trucks and sport utility vehicles.
This announcement quickly raised the eyebrows of many hardcore Ford enthusiasts who questioned the idea of Ford “sleeping with the enemy”, especially since Ford already has a thriving lineup of hybrid vehicles using their own architecture. But it should be pointed out that even though they are working together to develop a new hybrid rear wheel drive system ““ this drivetrain setup will be used in unique vehicles from Ford and Toyota. To clarify, this means that when the two automakers are finished designing this new rear wheel drive hybrid drivetrain, they will each use a derivative of it in their own vehicles, as opposed to some partnerships which result in companies using the same vehicles badged differently.
Ford and Toyota have both been working on a rear wheel drive hybrid system with a focus on a system that will suit the needs of light truck and SUV owners, but in combining their developmental efforts, Ford believes that this will cut down on the amount of time and money needed to reach the finished product. Ford has done a great job of cutting into Toyota’s share of the hybrid car market with the Fusion Hybrid and the compact Escape Hybrid SUV, which is the most efficient model in its class. Based on those two facts, you would expect that Ford could go their own way with RWD hybrid system development, but with the automakers success in the global hybrid market over the past decade, Ford may benefit from Toyota’s advancements in hybrid system development. It seems that in the long run, the key benefit for Ford will be cost savings in research and development.
On the other hand, Ford has seemingly done Toyota a huge favor in agreeing to this partnership. In working on a RWD hybrid system for light trucks and SUVs, Toyota will have a similar system to what we can expect to see in the Ford F150 in coming years. The F150 is the bestselling light truck in the universe and has been for a long time, while Toyota’s light trucks have struggled to compete with any of the Big 3 pickups. Having development involvement with future F150 pickups will certainly offer them an advantage in improving their own trucks, and in the long run, Toyota may be able to cut into the F150 sales when both trucks are powered by a similar hybrid drive system.
As a side note, it will be interesting to see what future models receive this hybrid drivetrain developed jointly with Toyota. The F150, Explorer and Edge have all been designed to maximize efficiency and a hybrid drivetrain system could allow Ford to offer trucks and SUVs that not only offer best in class fuel economy, but enough power to perform the types of tasks that these vehicles face.
What do you think? Is Ford making a mistake by partnering with Toyota? Voice your opinion here!