Ford-Toyota Joint Hybrid Truck Collaboration Is Over
Ford and Toyota have announced that they will no longer be collaborating on a joint venture to produce a hybrid powertrain for the Tundra and F-150. While Ford has told the Chicago Tribune that they intend to continue to develop a hybrid powertrain for the F-150 (and other RWD vehicles) on their own, Toyota’s official statement on the matter has made no such promises.
Basically, the Tundra hybrid is dead, but the F-150 hybrid lives (for now).
Why Cancel The Agreement?
When I first reported this hybrid joint venture in August, 2011, it was my feeling that Ford had “won” this particular deal. I felt that Ford would be able to dip into Toyota’s considerable hybrid know-how without penalty, as it seemed unlikely that Toyota could really leverage Ford’s truck expertise. The reason? It’s hard to convince loyal domestic truck owners to switch, even if you sell a superior truck.
Therefore, I presumed Toyota was providing know-how while Ford was providing capital. It was a win-win, but only if you look at the short-term. Providing your competitors with better technology isn’t a good long-term strategy.
However, a few things have changed since the collaboration was announced in 2011:
- Ford’s ability to produce and sell a viable hybrid vehicle on their own has improved – the success of Ford’s C-Max demonstrates that.
- Toyota has seen their market share rebound to pre “unintended acceleration” levels very quickly – perhaps faster than anyone in Japan thought possible. Thus, cash flow isn’t nearly as much of a concern as it was in 2011.
- Toyota has thrown in the towel on competing with Ford head-to-head, as the 2014 Tundra is being billed as a reliable and capable lux-truck, rather than a do-everything workhorse.
- Toyota has announced plans to produce an affordable fuel cell vehicle in the next 2 years.
The writing on the wall would seem to be that Ford doesn’t think they need Toyota’s help to build a hybrid truck.
This all but certainly means the Tundra hybrid is dead – again – as it seems unlikely Toyota can research and design a hybrid powertrain for the Tundra profitably (Tundra’s sales volumes are just too low). However…
Keep Your Eye On Toyota’s Fuel Cell Technology
Here’s a pop quiz for all you truck fans. Assuming costs are the same, would you rather?
- Buy a gasoline hybrid truck that only gets about 20% better gas mileage, but with 30% less towing/hauling ability or
- Buy a fuel cell electric truck that costs $20 to fill up, drives just as far as your gas engine truck (and fills up at gas stations with hydrogen pumps), pulls harder than a diesel (electric motors offer unlimited torque), and tows/hauls just as much as a gas engine?
It’s number 2, right? Obviously. Who wouldn’t want a fuel cell powered pickup over a hybrid…provided of course you could buy one for a reasonable price. That “reasonable price” qualifier has always been the problem with hydrogen fuel cells.
Yet Toyota believes they’ve discovered a formula for building affordable hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. They’re going to start selling a mid-sized sedan in 2015 that’s less than the Tesla Model S, has a greater driving range (300-400 miles), and – just like a Tesla – qualifies for massive tax credits.
If we remember the 1999 Prius, it took a little less than 10 years for gasoline-hybrids to become cost-competitive, mainstream vehicles. If Toyota brings out a viable fuel cell in 2015, you could be driving an affordable electric Tundra that runs on hydrogen by 2025.
Here’s to hoping.
Filed Under: Auto News