DETROIT -- By year end, a third automaker may join the DaimlerChrysler AG and General Motors partnership developing hybrid technology.
"There are discussions under way. They are very lively and very serious," Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler group CEO, said last week after a speech here. "I would not be surprised if within this year we would come up with an additional" partner.
Zetsche would not specify the automaker.
Several auto companies have expressed interest in joining the hybrid development venture, Zetsche said in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club.
"We've structured the program to allow for additional automotive partners," he said.
In December, DaimlerChrysler and GM told of a plan to develop hybrid technology for applications in GM, Chrysler group and Mercedes group vehicles.
Variants planned include rear- and front-wheel-drive versions of cars and trucks.
The technology will be on the road by late 2007, Zetsche said last week.
One analyst says adding partners would reduce cost.
"A partner can be someone bringing and sharing technology," says Lindsay Brooke, a senior analyst specializing in hybrid and advanced powertrain technology at CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills, Mich. Or a partner may buy the technology for vehicle installations, he says.
"The more units the merrier in terms of bringing the costs down," Brooke says. "These technologies are very expensive to develop."
Zetsche said competing automakers "underestimated the interest that Toyota and Honda hybrids would generate."
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