Ford is learning the hard way that building hybrids is a tricky business. It expects to triple its hybrid sales with the addition of the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, but its transmission supplier, Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd., can only boost its output to Ford by 20% to 24,000 units anuually. Toyota happens to own 23% of Aisin, although it claims it does not get involved with the relationships that company has with other automakers. Toyota and Honda were the first to invest billions in the emerging technology of hybrids, which has secured them both first dibs with the few Japanese suppliers that are now manufacturing hybrid components for the entire industry. Everyone else has to wait in line. While Ford's claims stop short of being accusations, the Blue Oval realizes regardless that the best strategy for its future hybrids will be to switch to domestic suppliers and develop parts in-house, rather than tapping the well of hybrid expertise that's concentrated in Japan.

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