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by Tim Beissmann

Toyota aims to produce one million petrol-electric hybrid vehicles in 2011 to remain in the lead in the growing market for low-emissions cars, Japanese business newspaper Nikkei reports.

The target would effectively mean doubling production from 2009, when it was expected Toyota manufactured slightly more than 500,000 hybrids – around eight percent of its total global production.

The Japanese company’s push is starting at home, ramping up production of hybrids with the local launch of its second hybrid vehicle, the Sai sedan, last year to accompany the third generation of the Prius.

Toyota sold 208,876 Prius units in 2009, making it the best-selling car in Japan. Sales increased by more than 280 percent over 2008 and since the release of the new model in May it has not been dethroned from top spot.

Hybrids and other low-emissions vehicles enjoy strong sales in Japan thanks to healthy tax breaks and subsidies from the environmentally conscious government.

And Kazaka Securities chief analyst, Yoshihiko Tabei, does not see much changing for Toyota any time soon.

“For the foreseeable future, the focus of Toyota’s (low-emission car) strategy will be on hybrids, not electric or fuel-cell cars.

“Except for Honda, Toyota is facing little competition in hybrids and is set to put distance between itself and other automakers,” he said.

The Nikkei suggested Toyota has plans to add up to 10 new hybrid models in the next few years, with the ambition to have a hybrid in every global model by the beginning of the next decade.

It is also increasing the number of sites where it can assemble hybrid models.

Australia became home to Toyota’s fifth hybrid facility with the Hybrid Camry production line in Melbourne, and the UK is set to follow within months with the production of the Auris (Corolla) Hybrid in Derby from midyear.

(with Reuters)




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