Mike Stevens | Aug 23, 2011

They may be locked in battle at the top end of the global sales charts, but Ford and Toyota will soon put aside their swords and team up on new hybrid systems.

The two companies have announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU), with a formal agreement expected to be signed early next year.

The collaboration will see the carmakers work together on the development of a new "advanced hybrid system" specifically for light trucks and SUVs, along with a range of in-car telematics and internet connectivity system.

Ford and Toyota will work to adapt and advance each company's existing hybrid technology, with a view to developing an all-new system for use in rear-wheel-drive light trucks, scheduled for market debuts before the end of this decade.

While the new powertrains will share common technology and components, the two carmakers will integrate the systems into their own vehicles, on individually-developed platforms.

"This agreement brings together the capability of two global leaders in hybrid vehicles and hybrid technology to develop a better solution more quickly and affordably for our customers," Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development, said.

"Ford achieved a breakthrough with the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and we intend to do this again for a new group of truck and SUV buyers -- customers we know very well."

While Ford is not short on experience with hybrid technology, it's Toyota that is the powerhouse in this partnership. Since the launch in 1997 of the first-generation Prius, Toyota has sold more than 3.3 million hybrids globally.

"We expect to create exciting technologies that benefit society with Ford – and we can do so through the experience the two companies have in hybrid technology," Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota executive vice president, Research & Development, said.

The two carmakers will also collaborate on the development of advanced telematics technology, with a view to establishing new standards for next-generation systems.

“Ford has made tremendous progress in the area of telematics,” Kuzak said. “We have unique and very good solutions today with SYNC and MyFordTouch. Working together on in-vehicle standards can only enhance our customers’ experience with their vehicles.”

Ford CEO Alan Mulally described the collaboration, which began with a chance encounter with Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda in an airport lounge, as a means of tackling tighening government regulations around the world.

“This is the kind of collaborative effort that is required to address the big global challenges of energy independence and environmental sustainability,” he said.

The new hybrid technologies will become a vital part of Ford's future line-up, with US President Barack Obama sealing an agreement with carmakers in July to lower their Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) figures to 4.3 l/100km by 2025.

For now, the two companies will begin working immediately on a feasability study, with more details to be announced in the coming months.

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