Toyota Decides a Ford Partnership for Hybrid Pickup Trucks is ‘Not Feasible’

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Break ups hurt. The end of this particular partnership is especially heartbreaking for all our suburban readers who are dying to drive a hybrid pickup. I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to keep on waiting.

Toyota and Ford hybrid development partnership over

As of this week, Toyota and Ford have officially canceled their Memorandum of Understanding for the development of a rear-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain for pickup trucks and SUVs. As you continue reading, we’ll outline the original intent and other specifics of this now-defunct agreement, including an entertaining amount of wild speculation.

2 Years, No Progress

Toyota and Ford originally announced their partnership on August 22, 2011. The agreement began with a Memorandum of Understanding with a plan for a more legally binding contract after a year-long “feasibility study”. The goal of the partnership was explicit; both brands wanted to expedite the development of a “new hybrid powertrain to bring the full hybrid experience of greater fuel efficiency to a new group of truck and SUV customers without compromising the capability they require in their vehicles.”

However, the formal agreement that was supposed to follow the MOU after one year was never signed. It seems that what started as a brief trial-run has since lost its appeal, at least on the hybrid powertrain front. The other part of the agreement, which is focused on the development of new telematics (Internet-based information and communication technology), is apparently still in place. As with the hybrid powertrain, a formal agreement has yet to be signed.

What does the cancellation of the Toyota-Ford MOU mean for you? Well, it means that a hybrid pickup truck isn’t coming as soon as we’d hoped. In their press release, Ford claims that they still plan to have a hybrid pickup by the end of 2020. Toyota’s statement was more vague, mostly just reminding us that they’re still the leading developer and seller of hybrid technology. Their position is more or less ‘we’ll get to it when we get to it’.

Why Did the Toyota-Ford Agreement Fail?

Obviously, this is where we get into the heavier speculation. I’m certainly not an insider with either company, so I can’t say for sure where things got stuck. However, there are two probable reasons for the cancellation.

First, it could be that Toyota and Ford now agree hybrid pickups aren’t the priority they once were. Just think about your typical Ford F-series commercial: How often is fuel economy a selling point? Rarely. A hybrid powertrain – the same thing the powers a Prius – just doesn’t jive with the “manly” image associated with driving a pickup. From a marketing standpoint, it seems like you’d need an extremely fuel-efficient hybrid to make a Priusified truck appealing to the typical pickup driver. An extra four or five miles per gallon won’t cut it; you’d need an extra 10 miles per gallon to make a hybrid pickup indisputably appealing. So, with this in mind, Toyota and Ford may have agreed that a hybrid pickup isn’t worth the vigorous pursuit.

The second possible reason could be because Toyota and Ford have frequently clashed over their hybrid systems. Toyota actually sued Ford for patent infringement when the American brand first released its Escape hybrid. It could very well be that the two automakers just couldn’t get over their differences, as petty as that sounds.

Whatever the reason, the end result of this failed agreement is that we now have no clue when to expect a hybrid pickup truck. I honestly believe that Toyota could get there first if they wanted to, especially since they’ve already shown a concept back in 2008 (which was actually shown in Detroit, funny enough). But, we haven’t seen anything about the A-BAT Concept since that original unveiling, and it doesn’t seem like we’ll see anything new anytime soon. We’ll be sure to let you know if anything changes, though.

Sources: Autoblog, The Truth About Cars

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