TOYOTA CITY, Japan -- In the race to boost fuel economy, overhauling the internal combustion engine is all the rage. Ford, Hyundai and Mazda are among those focusing on direct injection, turbochargers and improved transmissions as they reinvent their powertrain lineups.
So with its emphasis on hybrids, Toyota Motor Corp. may be missing the boat.
For all its r&d firepower, Toyota has been slow to popularize such technologies as direct injection and six-speed automatic transmissions. And it hasn't turned at all to turbochargers or dual-clutch transmissions, which rivals increasingly see as key ingredients in greening their fleets.
Now, with Toyota struggling to defend its image as an environmental leader, simply playing the hybrid card may not be enough. And in recognition of this, Toyota is aiming to bring direct injection, turbocharging and engine cylinder deactivation to a wider array of small cars.
"We know we can't rely solely on hybrid technology to meet all consumer needs in the future," Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. President Jim Lentz said at last week's National Automobile Dealers Association convention.