Toyota Widens Its Lead in Hybrid Race
While Detroit's automakers have yet to sell a single hybrid gasoline-electric car, Toyota introduced the second generation of its high-mileage, low-emissions car in Dearborn Oct. 9 and laid out a plan that may lead to hybrid versions of most of its models, according to the Detroit Free Press.Toyota will probably produce hybrid versions of all its core models, Paul Williamsen, product curriculum development manager, said at theintroduction of the new Prius midsize sedan, the Free Press reported.General Motors Corp. will offer hybrid versions of its V8-powered full-size pickups to businesscustomers beginning in January and to retail buyers late next year. The hybrid system reduces the trucks' fuel consumption 10 to 15 percent, a GM spokesman said.The Chrysler Group plans to begin building a hybrid version of its Dodge Ram full-size pickup in the fourth quarter of 2004, according to the Free Press.Ford Motor Co. has delayed production of its Escape SUV hybrid until late next summer, the Free Press said."At the moment, Toyota is the leader in hybridtechnology," said Jim Hall, vice president for industry analysis at the Southfield office of consultant AutoPacific. It has established customer expectations for "what an entry-level hybrid should be with the Prius. Next they can define it for luxury SUVs" with the hybrid Lexus RX330, Hall said."The domestic automakers have a chance to define customer expectations for hybrid pickup trucks," he added, telling the Free Press that hybrid powertrains may be a common option, like the choice between a 4-cylinder or V6 engine.