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Auto Alliance Behind New Hybrid System

From Reuters

A research alliance consisting of General Motors Corp., BMW and DaimlerChrysler plans to invest more than $1 billion in the development of a new hybrid system that backers say will leapfrog the market-leading technology now offered by Toyota Motor Corp.

The three automakers have about 500 engineers working on the joint development of the next-generation hybrid engine technology, which combines a battery-powered electric motor with a conventional gasoline combustion engine, company representatives said Friday during an industry trade meeting.

The so-called dual-mode hybrid technology that has been under development by the consortium includes an onboard fuel-optimization computer that determines when and at what speeds the two motors will be used for power and how the onboard battery will be recharged.

The core of the design is a new transmission that is expected to cost the partners about $300 million to develop, said Andreas Truckenbrodt, executive director of DaimlerChrysler’s hybrid programs. The remainder of the investment represents the cost of integrating the new hybrid system with other vehicle components, he said.

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The hybrid engine will be available in two rear-wheel drive configurations or a front-wheel drive system, said representatives of the joint development project, which is based in the Detroit suburb of Troy, Mich.

DaimlerChrysler plans to use the new hybrid system in its 2008 Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle. GM will use the hybrid in versions of the Tahoe and Yukon SUVs it plans to make available at the end of 2007.

BMW has not committed to a timetable for using the new engine system, but has said that it will make vehicles available with the upcoming system over the next three to five years.

GM shares fell 50 cents to $30.11, DaimlerChrysler lost 48 cents to $50.69 and Toyota fell $1.90 to $107.47. BMW gained 0.2% in Frankfurt trading.

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