Tokyo: Toyota will start making the Camry gas-electric hybrid in Australia from early 2010, as part of the Japanese automaker’s efforts to step up production of such green cars around the world.
Toyota Motor Corp. said in a statement it plans annual production of 10,000 Camry hybrids at the Altona plant in southeastern Australia, bright news for a nation whose auto industry has been lagging for a while.
Toyota became the first automaker in the world to commercially mass produce gas-electric hybrids with its Prius more than a decade ago. In recent years, hybrids have been growing in popularity amid surging gas prices and concerns about global warming. Hybrids deliver better mileage than comparable regular cars by switching between the gas engine and an electric motor.
The news is a boost for Australia’s auto industry. Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has recently shut down its plant in Adelaide, southern Australia.
“Australians are keenly aware of environmental issues including global warming, and we are confident that the Camry hybrid will be well received,” Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters.
Toyota hopes to sell 1 million or more hybrid vehicles a year post 2010. That would require boosting production of hybrids around the world, as it has taken about a decade for Toyota to reach cumulative global sales of a million Prius vehicles.
Toyota which is close to overtaking General Motors Corp. of the U.S. as the world’s No. 1 automaker said it is planning the best global hybrid production for making the technology widespread.
The Altona plant, which already makes the regular Camry sedans, now has annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, and made 149,000 vehicles last year.
The plant will be Toyota’s second overseas production point for the Camry hybrid after its Kentucky plant in the U.S. The only other nation where Toyota manufactures its hybrids besides Japan is China.
With the popularity of hybrids and other ecological technology, other automakers are aggressively trying to catch up with Toyota’s lead in hybrids.
For 2010, General Motors is planning a Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric vehicle, while Tokyo-based Nissan Motor Co. is planning electric vehicles for the U.S. and Japan.
Honda Motor Co. is also developing new hybrid models, targeting sales of 500,000 hybrids a year sometime after 2010.