For years, Toyota Motor Corp.
has put hybrids at the center of its powertrain technology strategy, all but oblivious to the rapid fuel economy advancements rivals have made in the humble gasoline engine.
Meanwhile, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai, Volkswagen and others have turned to gasoline direct fuel injection and turbochargers. For them, those technologies were a quick, cost-effective route to better mpg. Turbochargers, for example, allowed them to maintain power output while making engines smaller, for a significant weight savings and higher fuel economy.
Now, in a major overhaul of its lineup, Toyota is playing catchup. It will introduce a new direct-injection engine next year and follow with a downsized turbocharged powerplant -- its first -- in 2014. It is also committing to continuously variable transmissions across its range of small- to medium-sized cars.