According to Toyota (see their blog, for instance), Jim Press 'misspoke' when he told BusinessWeek last week the Prius was 100% funded by the Japanese government. To quote: "The Japanese government paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system that went into the Toyota Prius."
Jim Press is a reliable source for most things Toyota. Before becoming Vice Chairman and President at Chrysler Corp., he worked for Toyota for 37 years.
But according to Toyota
The truth is that the development of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, and the batteries that go with it, was accomplished entirely by Toyota’s in-house R&D and its partner, Panasonic EV, without outside support.GM vice-president Lutz has said GM could have brought a hybrid to market at the same time as the Prius and that it was a mistake not to do so. That indicates to me that government funding was not a factor. So, I find it believable Honda and Toyota funded their hybrid cars (Insight and Prius) development on their own.
It does make me wonder what Press was talking about. Was he referring to the close relationship between the Japanese government and its top auto manufacturers? The issues surrounding the Yen? Who knows.
I wonder if Press will correct the quote or push back somehow.
Update: Chrysler issued a statement on the reply by Toyota.
Chrysler Statement on Hybrid Battery Development
There have been several news reports today concerning statements made by Chrysler LLC Vice Chairman and President Jim Press on battery development for hybrid vehicles. First of all, Press was not speaking negatively of Toyota.
In a recent interview, he referenced the close cooperation between the Japanese government and Japanese industry. He said the Japanese government strongly supported R & D (research and development) investment in battery development, and the Prius and other Japanese models benefited from that investment in industry.
He cited this as an example of cooperation between government and industry working together on public policy issues. He went on to say that he would like to see similar cooperation in the United States in order to find technological improvements that help give U.S. companies a competitive advantage.
Updated Again: Japanese Government Backs Toyota
The Japanese government has come out and backed up Toyota's claims. Although government rebates were offered to Prius buyers, no funding was made available to develop the Prius.
Sosuke Tanaka, an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said there is no case in which Toyota got monetary aid for developing the Prius, according to ministry records.The government rebate is similar to the one offered in the U.S. It ended last year.
"Toyota developed its own technology," he told The Associated Press. "So please talk to Toyota about research and development."