The Detroit News reports that Ford suspects that it may be getting squeezed out from supplies of critical components for hybrids by Toyota and Honda.
The components manufacturers are longtime suppliers, and in some cases, affiliates, of the two Japanese companies.
With the fall launch of the gas-electric Mercury Mariner, Ford is tripling its hybrid SUV lineup over three years. But its transmission supplier, Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd., can boost deliveries by only 20 percent, to 24,000 transmissions annually.
“Aisin, which is minority-controlled by Toyota, has interesting shareholders they have to answer to,” said Mary Ann Wright, director of Ford’s hybrid programs research and advanced engineering.
[...]Officials with Toyota, which owns 23 percent of Aisin, say the company has no desire or motive to limit hybrid component supplies to Ford or any other automaker.
Ford is looking for domestic suppliers as replacements, and to building internally.
Although Aisin supplied the transmission for Toyota’s first-generation Prius sedan, Toyota now produces its own third-generation hybrid transmissions in-house. GM will be producing its hybrid system (co-developed with DaimlerChrysler) at its Allison unit—the same group that produces the hybrid drive for transit buses.
“If Ford is serious about a hybrid future, it has to design its own transmission or find its own transmission supplier,” said [Lindsay] Brooke [an auto analyst at CSM Worldwide].