Saturday, July 18, 2009

Toyota Will Make Hybrids in Britain

Toyota Motor Corp. said it will produce hybrid vehicles in Europe for the first time next year, as it pushes ahead with its leading gas-sipping hybrid cars across the globe.

Toyota, the world's largest hybrid maker, aims to gather momentum by enticing cost-conscious customers with its hybrids in the region, where it is struggling with a relatively small 5% share of the overall market.

The world's biggest car maker by sales volume said it will manufacture a hybrid version of the Auris subcompact hatchback in the U.K. from the middle of 2010. It will spend three billion yen ($32 million) to prepare for production.

The U.K. will be the fifth country outside Japan where Toyota makes hybrid cars or plans to do so. The company already builds hybrids in China and the U.S. and will begin production in Thailand later this month and in Australia in early 2010.

The latest decision on U.K. production follows a strategy that the company's newly appointed president, Akio Toyoda, outlined late last month. He aims to promote hybrid car sales in Europe where customers looking for more fuel-economic vehicles tend to buy diesel-powered cars.

Toyota is betting on its leading technology combining combustion engines with electric motors to spur demand in Europe for low-emission cars that are cheaper to run.

The auto giant also aims to offer hybrid versions of all of its vehicles by 2020.

Core components of the system such as the batteries and the motors will be shipped from Japan, a Toyota spokesman said.

Nissan Motor Co. said it is considering expanding its limited offerings of hybrid vehicles by installing its own gasoline-electric system technology in more models to catch up with rivals such as Toyota.

The Japanese car maker, in which Renault SA holds a 44% stake, follows Honda Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. in seeking to beef up its hybrid lineup.

Honda said July 13 that it will launch two new gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles next year, while Mazda is in talks with Toyota over using components of Toyota's system for its hybrid vehicles.

Nissan has lagged behind major hybrid makers including Toyota, Honda and Ford Motor Co. as the company has focused more on developing electric cars. It plans to roll out electric vehicles next year in Japan and the U.S.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

India June Car Sales Rise 7.8%

Car sales in India rose for the fifth straight month in June, driven primarily by lower lending rates and the introduction of new models from auto makers.

Sales climbed 7.8% in June to 107,531 cars from the 99,741 sold a year earlier, showed data issued Wednesday by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers industry group.

Higher borrowing costs and a slowing economy reduced demand for cars and two-wheelers in Asia's third-largest automobile market last year.

But sales began to recover earlier this year after a slew of stimulus packages, including tax cuts, from the federal government and a lowering of borrowing rates by financial institutions.

Compared to a year earlier, car sales grew 22% in February - the first monthly rise since last September - 1% in March, 4.2% in April and 2.5% in May.

"Overall, the auto industry has exhibited a positive trend in volume growth over the last four to five months," Vaishali Jajoo, an analyst at Mumbai-based Angel Broking, said in a recent report.

Ms. Jajoo, however, said the rising trend in vehicle sales will only be confirmed when auto makers report a gradual positive trend in volumes over the next couple of months.

Automakers in India have introduced several new small cars and sedans since January in an effort to lure more customers.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. began selling the Ritz, its seventh small car model, in May as it worked to maintain its leadership in the expanding market.

Sales at Maruti - a unit of Suzuki Motor Corp. - gained 12% to 54,693 cars as the market leader sold more A-Star, Ritz and Swift cars.

Fiat SpA introduced its Grande Punto hatchback last month, with the company lifting car sales to 2,464 units in June from 500 a year earlier.

Second-ranked carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. posted a 5.2% rise to 23,013 cars, while Tata Motors, the country's third-largest auto maker, rose 3.2% to 13,732 cars.

Sales at Honda Motor Co.'s local unit increased 13.5% to 5,039 cars in June, boosted by the introduction of the Jazz hatchback model.

"Our full-year outlook was based on stimulus packages," Dilip Chenoy, SIAM's director general told reporters, referring to the association's annual sales outlook announced in April. "Currently nothing has changed and it is too early to factor in the impact of the monsoon."

Normal monsoon rains are considered key to higher sales of cars, commercial vehicles and motorcycles in India's growing rural markets. About half of the country's agriculture depends on monsoons rains.

Monsoon rains are forecast to be below normal this year and auto makers have previously said they are studying for possible impact of this delay on their sales.

SIAM had forecast local car sales to grow 3%-5% in this fiscal year that began April 1. Truck and bus sales may grow 7%-10%, while that of motorcycles and scooters are projected to rise up to 5%.

Local sales of trucks and buses slid 12.5% to 36,193 vehicles in June because of a decline in sales of medium and heavy commercial vehicles.

Sales in the medium and heavy commercial vehicle segment declined 31% to 15,659 vehicles as Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland - the top two manufacturers - posted lower sales in a slowing economy.

Light commercial vehicle sales, however, increased 10% to 20,534 units in June.

In the motorcycle segment, sales gained 16% in June to 550,833 units as Hero Honda Motors Ltd., Yamaha Motor Co. and Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Ltd. saw an increase in demand.

Motorcycle sales of second-ranked Bajaj Auto Ltd. and third-ranked TVS Motor Co., however, declined.

Scooter sales rose 25% to 111,980 units in June, with Hero Honda, Honda Motorcycle and TVS posting higher sales.

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