Saturday, November 14, 2009

Automotive News Europe

TOKYO (Reuters) -- Toyota Motor Corp. Said on Tuesday it aims to sell 36,000 units a year of its new hybrid Sai sedan in Japan, taking another step towards its goal of selling 1 million hybrid vehicles annually worlwide soon after 2010.

The Sai is the second hybrid-only model under the Toyota brand after the Prius and is a repackaged version of the Lexus HS250h, which went on sale in June.

The Sai is bigger and more expensive than the Prius and will go on sale in Japan on Dec. 7. Prices will start at 3.38 million yen ($37.290), compared with the HS250h's starting price of 3.96 million yen.

Toyota said it had no plans to export the Sai, which will be built by unit Toyota Motor Kyushu in southern Japan.

The Sai has a listed mileage of 23 km/liter (54 mgp), or twice that of a comparable gasoline car, chief engineer Shigeru Nakagawa told a news conference.

Toyota said the Sai concept was derived from a Japanese character meaning talent and coloration.

Toyota is still miles ahead of competitors in the fast-growing hybrid field, which has enjoyed tailwinds especially in Japan thanks to generous subsidies and reduced taxes on cleaner cars.

It expects to sell 500,000 to 600,000 hybrid vehicles globally this year, while facing a short-term battery supply bottleneck for anything further.

Korean Launch

Toyota also on Tuesday launched its brand in South Korea, a market dominated by Hyunday Motor Co. And affiliate Kia Motors.

Toyota will sell the Prius and Camry hybrids, as well as the RAV4 sports utility vehicle and non-hybrid version of the Camry, its most popular sedan.

Toyota expects to sell a combined 500 vehicles per month initially in South Korea, and ims to raise that to a still-modest 700 units beginning in 2010.

"The introduction of the Toyota brand into South Korea is aimed to meet the diversifying needs of consumers in this growing market," Toyota Excecutive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo told a news conference.

Hyunday has been grabbing market share globally from Toyota and other major automakers, winning over customers with its line of cheap, fuel-efficient models and catchy marketing campaigns.

In July, Hyundai launched its first hybrid in the South Korean market, a liquefied petroleum gas-electric vehicle, and is due to launch its first gasoline-electric hybrid, a version of the flagship Sonata, in the latter half of 2010.


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