While rivals have invested on developing technologies that would improve fuel economy in gasoline engines, Toyota has focused on advancing its hybrid powertrain technologies. Unlike Toyota, competitors like Ford, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Volkswagen were able to take advantage of gasoline direct fuel injection and turbochargers in order to make their vehicles travel more miles per gallon of fuel. The turbocharger technology has allowed these rivals to maintain output while making engines smaller, vehicles lighter and fuel consumption lower. Toyota, however, won’t be silent anymore on adopting these gasoline engine technologies into its powertrain technology strategy, as it plans to launch a new direct-injection engine in 2013 and a first downsized turbocharged engine in 2014.
Toyota is also committed to employ continuously variable transmissions (CVT) across its range of small- to medium-sized cars. That does not mean, however, that Toyota will abandon its gasoline-electric hybrids. In fact, the Japanese carmaker plans to introduce 14 new hybrids by 2015. However, Toyota’s hybrids like its Prius model only account for around 10 percent of the carmaker’s sales worldwide. Toyota has unveiled its latest environmental technology game plan in Tokyo, which entails the carmaker to start selling more vehicles with standard powertrains that have been the backbone of its lineup.
Toyota expects to post big gains in fuel economy for its non-hybrid vehicles. According to Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's outgoing product development chief, through improvement in the engine and powertrain alone, the carmaker aims to achieve by 2015 a fuel-efficiency improvement of 10 percent to 20 percent on the models adopting the improvements. The road to fuel-efficiency improvement may not come easy as engineers are arguing how widely direct injection and turbocharging should be applied. According to Toyota insiders, President Akio Toyoda urged his employees to embrace non-hybrid technologies.