Toyota unveils new hybrid luxury sedan

Toyota unveils new hybrid luxury sedan

Tokyo: Toyota Motor Corp. on Tuesday unveiled a new hybrid luxury sedan, the ‘Sai’, aiming to keep its pole position in environment-friendly vehicles.

The new vehicle, which will go on sale only in Japan from 7 December, is a compact sedan with a 2.4-litre engine and fuel economy of 23 kilometres per litre, against 38 kpl for the third-generation ‘Prius’.

It is the second Toyota-brand vehicle that is available only as a hybrid, after the ‘Prius’.

“If it does not carry a hybrid engine, a sedan of this size would require twice as much fuel," said Shigeru Nakagawa, Toyota’s project manager.

“When people driving a luxury car want to be more environment-friendly, they may want a slightly more upscale vehicle than the Prius," he said.

The Sai will have a price tag starting from ¥3.38 million ($37,225), against ¥2.05 million for the Prius, the company said.

Toyota aims to sell some 3,000 Sai vehicles a month. It sold 31,758 Prius vehicles in September, helped by government tax breaks and subsidies for fuel-efficient vehicles.

The world’s largest automaker is a pioneer in hybrids, which run on a combination of petrol and electricity and are in strong demand because of worries about global warming.

Toyota said last month that global sales of its hybrid vehicles had topped the two-million mark since their launch in 1997. It also sells a Lexus sedan that is available only as a hybrid.

The company announced Tuesday that it had begun selling the new Prius hybrid in South Korea, along with its best-selling Camry and the RAV4 sports-utility vehicle.

Until now Toyota has sold only Lexus brand models in South Korea, where the car market is dominated by domestic producers such as Hyundai Motor.