MINI Crossover Concept - Click above for high-res image gallery
Mazda already has one of the first non-Toyota hybrids to hit the market with its Tribute SUV (above), but that model is only on sale in California, with hybrid tech from Ford Motor Company. Now that Ford has a much smaller percentage stake in the automaker, Mazda cannot rely on the Blue Oval to develop its future hybrid technology. With hybrid sales in its home market of Japan booming, the Hiroshima-based automaker is rumored to be looking for potential partners.
According to Reuters, Japan's Nikkei business daily is reporting that Mazda is in talks with Toyota to license the Japanese juggernaut's hybrid technology for future models. Toyota and Mazda are thus far denying the reports, but Nikkei quotes anonymous sources saying the deal could include the licensing of batteries, motors, and other vital components. The publication further reports that the first Mazda-badged hybrid could arrive as soon as 2013. That's two years earlier than Mazda research and development boss Seita Kanai speculated earlier in the year.
The move would benefit Toyota by boosting revenue and increasing economies of scale. Some analysts speculate that Toyota, which has been in the global hybrid game longer than anyone, could capitalize by leasing out its gas-electric tech to more automakers. Toyota already has an arrangement with Nissan to supply technology for use in its Altima Hybrid.