After years of pooh-poohing hybrid technology, key German automakers are doing an about-face.
BMW AG and DaimlerChrysler AG have joined General Motors in an alliance to develop a two-mode hybrid drive. Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche have partnered to develop hybrid SUVs.
The Germans are still banking on diesel technology to improve fuel economy until hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are commercially viable. The automakers have criticized hybrids as too costly with too many technology problems.
But growing social pressures, consumer awareness and the highly trumpeted success of Toyota Motor Corp.'s hybrids have pushed the reluctant German automakers to the table.
With the United States a major market for many Germans, consumer demand here can no longer be ignored.
Wendelin Wiedeking, CEO of Porsche AG, sums up the new interest in hybrids: "We have to fulfill customers' needs, and they are looking for such concepts."