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Toyota to sell plug-in hybrid in US, Europe, Japan
TOKYO (AP) - Toyota is planning to sell a plug-in hybrid car in the U.S., Japan and Europe in 2012, targeting sales of 50,000 vehicles a year at 3 million yen ($36,000) each without subsidies, as the automaker strengthens its green lineup to keep pace with growing competition.
Toyota Motor Corp. Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada said Thursday that Toyota is also planning to sell an electric vehicle in 2012 and not just in the U.S. as it had said before, but in Japan and Europe too. Sales in China are also being considered, he told reporters.
But he said electric vehicles will be mainly for short commutes for some time and gasoline-electric hybrids will remain the standard for green cars because drivers won’t have to worry about running out of electricity on the road.
His comments show how Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, is banking on hybrids, which switch between a gasoline engine and an electric motor, after the success of its top-selling Prius hybrid.
A plug-in hybrid is cleaner than a regular hybrid because it travels longer as a zero-emission electric vehicle.
He was at pains to show Toyota isn’t lagging in electric car technology, although acknowledged it had fallen behind Japanese rivals Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in bringing them to market.
“We are not behind in technology at all,” he told reporters.
Besides developing an electric car in-house, Toyota is working on an electric sport-utility vehicle with U.S. luxury electric car maker Tesla. A concept model which is being shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show is planned for sale in the U.S. in 2012, with a range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) on a single charge.
Toyota’s own electric vehicle in the works is based on the iQ ultra-compact car and has a range of 65 miles (105 kilometers) on a single charge.
Given a test drive Thursday, it sped around a short test-course without any problem, making whirring motor noises instead of the usual roar of an engine.
Toyota is planning to introduce 11 new hybrid models by the end of 2012, including revamps of existing models, he said.
Uchiyamada said Toyota was working on more futuristic technology as well. It will start selling a fuel cell hybrid vehicle, which runs on hydrogen, in about 2015 and is aiming for a price under 10 million yen ($122,000) or lower.
By Brahma Chellaney
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