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Toyota revs up for Prius launch

Toyota revs up for Prius launch

New Delhi: Japanese car maker Toyota Motor Corp. plans to soon launch its best-selling hybrid car Prius in India, an executive said. The car runs on both petrol and batteries.

According to Mitsuhiro Umeyama, general manager at Toyota’s global research and development division, around 5% of Toyota’s vehicles sold globally are hybrids and the company would be satisfied if it matched that percentage in India.

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To get to 5%, Toyota would have to sell around 2,500 hybrids in the country.

Hybrids such as the Prius emit half the amount of carbon dioxide than conventional gasoline engines.

Hiroshi Nakagawa, managing director of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd, had said in an earlier interview that Prius is likely to be launched in January.

Toyota is sticking to its plan despite high import duties that have in the past scuttled plans of other car makers.

In July last year, Honda Siel Cars India Ltd had launched a hybrid version of its Civic sedan. But a 104% import tariff led to low demand.

As a result, the company was forced to offer the car at a discount of around Rs8 lakh on its list price of Rs21.5 lakh to get rid of inventory. It has since withdrawn the model.

Umeyama, who is in charge of development of new technologies, also laid out Toyota’s vision for the future.

Unlike rivals, the company is not betting on any one alternative fuel platform. Toyota continues to work on electric cars, hybrids and fuel cells in parallel. Electric cars are likely for city transport, while hybrids would be used for longer distances, Umeyama said. Fuel cells such as hydrogen could be used by goods transporters, he added.

In a recent interview with Mint, Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan Renault had said he believes that electric cars would dominate the market for alternate fuel cars in the next decade.

Others such as Ford Motor Co. have suggested that for the time being, improvements in conventional petrol technology are the best way forward.

“We think at this stage each type of vehicle is needed for future cities," said Umeyama, adding that he wasn’t sure which one will emerge as the favoured choice.

But like rivals Nissan Motor Co. Ltd, Toyota has serious plans in the battery market. It already has a battery joint venture with Panasonic Corp.

Toyota, which is on track to introduce its first small car for the Indian market in late 2010, has no plans to go down the low-cost route.

Fuel efficiency would also be the focus of the company’s efforts in its largest export market, the US.

“People in America will be more fuel consumption conscious," Umeyama said.

Just marketing pickups for the US market is not going to work any more, he pointed out.


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