Toyota Motor will provide its petrol electric hybrid system to China’s Guangzhou Automobile, Japan’s business daily Nikkei said it had learned.

The report said this was the first time Toyota would offer its core hybrid system to a foreign company.

That might apply to the latest Toyota hybrid technology – the original system has been continuously updated and redesigned since the Prius launched in Japan in 1997 (export began in 2000) – but a dip into the extensive just-auto/GlobalData archives showed Toyota Motor affiliate Aisin AW officially announcing as far back as August 2001 it would begin to supply its petrol-electric hybrid system for Ford’s North American built sports and multi-purpose vehicles in 2003, with an annual supply target of about 20,000 units.

Aisin AW, a subsidiary of Aisin Seiki and also partly owned by Toyota at that time, said the systems would be installed in the Escape Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) which Ford planned to sell from 2003 as its first hybrid vehicle.

Ford in September 2003 delayed the Escape hybrid launch and next said, the following October, production would start in July 2004.

In March 2004, Toyota and Ford said they had concluded licensing agreements for hybrid system and emissions control patents. Under the agreements, TMC hybrid system control technology patents, among a number of patents resulting from the firm’s hybrid system development, had been licensed for use in Ford’s own hybrid system, which was under development.

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In August 2004, Ford said it had finally begun production of the hybrid Escape, claiming it as the world’s first petrol-electric hybrid sports utility vehicle and the first hybrid vehicle produced by an American automaker.

The automaker at the time was still sharing models with Mazda, in which it still had a stake, and also built a Mazda branded variant on an OEM basis for its Japanese rival and partner to sell in North America in competition with the Escape.

Today’s Nikkei report noted China had decided to include hybrid vehicles in the eco-friendly vehicle category under new emissions standards starting next year, and Toyota had seen a chance to expand sales in the huge neighbouring market.