Press review of the Prius: Did ex-Toyota boss spill the beans?

Chrysler: Jim Press was "not speaking negatively" of Toyota.
Chrysler co-President Jim Press landed in a PR stew last week — and so did his former employer, Toyota. In an interview, Press told BusinessWeek magazine that the Japanese government "paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system that went into the Toyota Prius."

But on March 14, 2007 — when he was still Toyota's top U.S. executive — Press said something else to a subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee. U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, questioned Press about the seven years of r&d that went into Toyota's hybrid technology. Burgess asked: "That seven-year interval, was any of that research and development funded by the government?"

Press answered: "No, sir."

Burgess: "So that was all just done under your own initiative."

Press: "Yes."

Toyota responded quickly to the BusinessWeek story.

"For the first Prius project, we used a nickel-metal hydride battery that Toyota developed internally," said Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. spokesman Mike Michels. "There was no subsidy whatsoever received from the government for either the development of the car or for the battery. Currently, for lithium ion and other advanced batteries, the Japanese government is subsidizing some research and development. But mostly that is at the academic level, just like the governments are doing in Europe and the U.S."

Chrysler downplayed Press' remarks, saying he was "not speaking negatively" of Toyota.

Said Chrysler in a statement: "He said the Japanese government strongly supported r&d investment in battery development, and the Prius and other Japanese models benefited from that investment in industry."

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