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Posted by: David Kiley on January 13, 2008
In case anyone thought Toyota was taking General Motors’ frequent proclamations that it will be first to market with a plug-n hybrid vehicle lightly, the automaker’s CEO, Katsuaki Watanabe, laid down a series of announcements Sunday night at the North American International Auto Show, clean diesels and plug-ins, hybrids and clean diesels that should go a long way toward maintaining its advantage over General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in “green” image polishing.
Watanabe, whose company has been downplaying the significance of plug-ins (which are cars that can riun a distance on electric power alone and then either be recharged by a running gas engine that kicks in or by plugging the car into an household outlet) said Toyota will have an lithium-ion battery powered plug in test fleets by 2010, the same time-frame that GM has said it will deliver its first Chevy Volt plug-in cars to customers.
Further, the Toyota CEO said it will have a clean-diesel engine available in the Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV by 2009, and two new hybrid-only models—one for its Toyota showrooms to sell alongside the Prius and one for Lexus showrooms. Lexus now sells hybrid versions of its RX SUV and LS sedan, but this will be the first hybrid-only model for the luxury brand.
Watanabe said Toyota will sell one million gas-electric hybrids by 2011 or 2012, and meet the U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standard of 35 mpg for its fleet in advance of the 2020 deadline.
General Motors has tried to seize a PR advantage since last year’s NAIAS in Detroit when it showed the Volt plug-in concept. The promise of the Volt is that it will get around 40 miles on an electric charge. Toyota, Honda and Ford have all said that the lithium-ion battery technology will not be ready by GM’s 2010 time-frame. Few believe GM can deliver the car with a capable battery that will be small enough and cheap enough to meet Lutz’s goal of a car that will cost below $30,000. Indeed, Lutz himself recently told BusinesWeek that delivering a car that will cost $30,000 or under without losing money on each one “may not happen.”
Besides adding two more hybrids, Toyota is out to best Detroit in one area thata it has traditionally led: pickup trucks. Ford and GM have also talked about putting clean diesel engines in their half-ton “light duty” pickups, which will increase fuel economy of the trucks by around 30%. If Toyota delivers in 2009, it will be ahead of all three Detroit carmakers.
Talking to both Lutz and GM CEO Rick Wagoner after Toyota’s announcement, though, indicates to me, though, that that Toyota in the next few months is going to announce diesel in light-duty Silverados in 2009 as well.
Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Detroit bureau chief David Welch , Dexter Roberts and Ian Rowley bring daily scoop, keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business from around the globe. Read their take on such weighty issues as Detroit’s attempt at a comeback, Toyota’s quest for dominance and the search for an efficient car.