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.

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