— According to two analysts following development in advanced powertrains, automakers are preparing to introduce a significant number of light-duty gasoline-electric vehicles in the next five years, reports Automotive News.
By 2010 more than 50 hybrid models will be available in North America, and volume will be close to 1 million units annually, according to the Hybrid Vehicle Sales Forecast. The study was done last year by two former J.D. Power and Associates analysts, Thad Malesh and Ed McLaughlin, of the Automotive Technology Research Group in Thousand Oaks, Calif.Malesh said the forecast is based on an analysis of platforms outfitted with hybrid powertrains as well as derivatives that could be converted easily. He cited the Ford Escape Hybrid and its offshoots, the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute. Currently, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and General Motors offer a total of seven hybrid nameplates. Toyota, currently vying with GM for largest automaker, says it will make the powertrain available in all models, and is marketing its hybrid technology and engineering expertise to other companies, including Nissan Motor Co. and potentially to Porsche. Ford Motor Company has licensed Toyota technology as well.Malesh says GM is the wild card when it comes to hybrids, and is expected to make public an update of its hybrid plans at the Detroit auto show in January. GM has announced plans to add hybrid powertrains to the Saturn Vue and Chevrolet Malibu and Equinox. But Malesh sees Toyota retaining its engineering and sales leadership in hybrids. "Toyota wants to make it so doggone painful for anybody else to do the research and development that they will fight off competitors," he says. "They want to be the dominant provider of the technology to consumers."