GM-led Coalition Plan To Challenge Toyota's Hybrid Hegemony

The dual-mode hybrid system will be available in a wide range of cars, trucks and S.U.V.'s made by the three companies, starting with the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe that goes on sale in fall 2007.

Published: 01-May-2006

IF the crossword puzzle clue is "hybrid car," the answer is probably "Prius." Since Toyota brought that model to the United States six years ago, the company has basked in a green public-relations glow — even though Honda was first with a modern gas-electric car (the Insight) and Ford sold the first hybrid S.U.V. (the Escape).

But with a mix of creative engineering, clever promotion and fortunate timing, Toyota has set the de facto standard for the entire class of eco-friendly vehicles. It has licensed its software to Ford and is selling hybrid components to Nissan. Toyota has half a dozen hybrid models in showrooms or on the way — twice as many as any other automaker — ranging from the miserly Prius to the $100,000-plus Lexus LS 600hL.

Yet the domination of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive is coming under assault from some of the auto industry's top engineers. For more than a year, in nondescript buildings in Troy, Mich., north of Detroit, a German-American consortium of BMW, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors has been working quietly to develop a distinctly different type of hybrid powertrain.


Allocating significant money to produce a saleable hydrogen fuel cell car is likely to be a tough decision for GM. Larry Burns with image of Sequel fuel cell car behind him.

The pollution-free technology holds the potential of zero emissions and a sustainable source of energy produced when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed.

To satisfy that demand, GM worked to improve the fuel economy of the redesigned Aveo. The manual transmission version gets up to 37 miles per gallon on the highway. That's competitive with other small cars, including Toyota Yaris, which gets 39 mpg on the highway, and Kia Rio and Honda Fit, which get 38 mpg.


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