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Old 11-02-2004, 07:00   #1 (permalink)
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Japan:Mazda: Launch Hybrid SUV and Test Hydrogen Rotary

Mazda: Launch Hybrid SUV and Test Hydrogen Rotary

The Auto Channel

CHIBA, Japan, Reuters reported that Japanese auto maker Mazda Motor Corp. will launch a hybrid sport utility vehicle soon using technology from 33 percent-owner Ford Motor Co., President Hisakazu Imaki said on Tuesday.

"Through our partnership with Ford, we are now proceeding with the development of a hybrid version of the Mazda Tribute, which we will launch as early as possible," Imaki told a press conference at the Tokyo Motor Show for commercial vehicles.

Imaki declined to say when the vehicle would be launched.

Gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, which use a battery pack to store excess energy lost during braking and acceleration, are still a niche vehicle with only a handful of auto makers offering the powertrain.

But industry executives and analysts expect the segment to expand rapidly, especially in North America, where Toyota Motor Corp.'s second-generation Prius hybrid has taken the market by storm.

Following the lead of Toyota and Honda Motor Co. until recently the only car makers in the world to offer mass-market gasoline-electric hybrid cars -- Ford earlier this year launched a hybrid version of the Escape SUV, which shares a platform with Mazda's Tribute.

Given its limited resources, Mazda is concentrating more of its research into ecologically sound cars on hydrogen-powered technology.

The Hiroshima-based car maker last week received Japanese government approval to test its hydrogen, rotary engine-powered RX-8 sports car on public roads, and is planning to lease the car to government and private-sector users within two years.

Mazda said on Tuesday it had also started working on a hybrid version of vehicle, combining the hydrogen powered rotary engine with a battery-powered hybrid drive system.
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