Volt san: Toyota Said to Consider Offering Version of Prius Hybrid to GM
June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. may offer to supply a
version of its Prius hybrid car to General Motors Corp. during a meeting
between the companies’ chief executives, two people familiar with the
Toyota President Akio Toyoda and GM’s Fritz Henderson will meet in
Michigan in August said the people, who asked not to be identified
because the plan isn’t public. A GM-badged car based on the Prius is
among the options for new products at a jointly owned factory in
California after GM said it would end assembly of the Pontiac Vibe at
the plant earlier than planned.
A version of the world’s top-selling hybrid car may help bankrupt GM win
U.S. customers and would give it an incentive to keep open the
joint-venture factory. Toyota is also considering the plant as a Prius
production site after shelving plans to make the gasoline-electric car
in Mississippi, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg
earlier this month.
“Having a stronger line-up is an urgent matter for GM,” said Yoshihiro
Okumura, who helps oversee the equivalent of $365 million at Tokyo-based
Chiba-gin Asset Management Co. “Demand will continue to shift to small
GM currently has eight hybrid models, two of which are Saturns, a brand
that GM is selling to Penske Automotive Group Inc. Of GM’s remaining six
hybrids, only one, the Chevy Malibu, is a car, according to its web site.
Pat Morrissey, a spokesman for GM, declined to comment on any
technology-sharing relationship with Toyota.
GM will launch the plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt next year and plans
to have 14 hybrid models in 2012, the automaker said June 1 as part of
its bankruptcy filing.
GM said earlier this month it will stop building Vibes in August at New
United Motor Manufacturing Inc., the only large auto-assembly plant on
the U.S. west coast, ahead of the Detroit-based company’s initial plan
to cut the hatchback in 2010. Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, and
GM, the second largest, have shared the factory, known as Nummi, since 1984.
“We have been in discussions with Toyota about potential future
products. We have not figured out a product that meets the needs of
Toyota or ourselves,” Troy Clarke, president of GM North America, said
during a June 26 conference call. “That dialogue continues.”
Clarke told reporters on June 19 that GM is not in current talks to
license Toyota’s hybrid system.
“Nothing has been decided other than halting the production of the Vibe
at Nummi,” said Hideaki Homma, a Tokyo- based spokesman for the company.
“A meeting of the executives is also not under consideration.”
Ford Motor Co. licenses Toyota patents as part of its hybrid program,
while GM has turned down those opportunities in the past, said Jim Hall,
principal of 2953 Analytics auto- consulting firm in Birmingham,
Michigan. It might make sense if GM also shares component development
for its sedans with Toyota, he said.
“Toyota is not normally in the practice of giving away the crown
jewels,” Hall said.
It probably doesn’t make sense to put a hybrid vehicle in Nummi, Hall
said. For GM, it would make more sense to share mid- sized pickups such
as the Chevrolet Colorado with the Toyota Tacoma, which is built in
Nummi now, he said.
Toyota and GM have shared the Fremont, California, plant since 1984.
While GM owns half of the plant, Toyota models accounted for 76 percent
of output through June 27, according to trade publication Automotive News.
The factory has capacity to make 420,000 cars and trucks a year and
employs about 5,400 people, according to the plant’s Web site. In
addition to Vibe, which is a version of Toyota’s Matrix hatchback, Nummi
builds Corolla small cars and Tacoma pickups.
Toyota on Dec. 15 said it would halt work on the $1.3 billion Blue
Springs, Mississippi, factory after plunging U.S. sales created excess
capacity at its North American plants. The company early this year said
it would pay the interest on bonds issued by Mississippi for