It's not just Toyota that sells multiple models of hybrid cars now. German luxury brands are getting in on the act too.

BMW announced today that it was forming a joint venture with France's Peugeot-Citroen to design and build hybrid-electric powertrains. The new enterprise is an expansion of the two companies' cooperation on small four-cylinder engines, which began in 2006.

The 1.6-liter engines in BMW's Mini Cooper lineup were the first joint effort, and now the new hybrid hardware is expected to appear in front-wheel-drive vehicles from BMW under both the Mini brand and its own nameplate.

Expanding on that partnership, a year ago the two companies announced another deal to develop a new four-cylinder engine family as well.

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7

The latest hybrid venture will be called BMW Peugeot CItroen Electrification. Its purpose is to spread the considerable design and engineering costs of modern, fuel-saving hybrid systems over a larger number of vehicles.

BMW said almost a year ago it plans to launch more front-wheel-drive small cars, having shifted from its rear-wheel-drive-only philosophy to gain the cost and weight savings advantages of the more compact drivetrain.

The fact that most British owners think their BMW 1-Series has front-wheel drive anyway may also have contributed to the decision.

One of those new models may slot in below the next generation of 1-Series, and will ride on a platform shared with the next Mini Cooper.

BMW currently offers two different hybrid systems in its large vehicles. The first was the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6, a version of its so-called "sports activity vehicle" that uses the Two-Mode Hybrid system jointly developed by GM, Daimler, Chrysler, and BMW.

That will be the only BMW to use that expensive and complex system, which will be carried forward by GM alone.

The other is the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7, which uses a mild-hybrid system developed by BMW and Daimler. That system is also used on the Mercedes-Benz S 400 Hybrid. The two makers will evolve this system into a full hybrid with all-electric running.

The next vehicle to use this system with be the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5, which was previewed at last year's Geneva Motor Show.

[Peugeot-Citroen; BMW]