Thursday, August 5, 2004

Toyota plans to boost production of hybrid cars

By John Porretto
The Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Toyota Motor Corp. has set a goal of selling 300,000 gas-electric hybrid vehicles worldwide by the end of 2005, but production capacity may be a factor, Toyota President Fujio Cho said Wednesday.

Speaking at an automotive seminar, Cho said Japan's No. 1 automaker remained bullish on prospects for hybrids even as Toyota and others invest billions on technology for hydrogen fuel cell cars and trucks. But experts say road-ready hydrogen-powered vehicles are at least a decade away.

Toyota sold 53,293 hybrid vehicles worldwide in 2003 and announced Tuesday that it was boosting monthly production of its hybrid sedan, the Prius, from 10,000 to 15,000 a month in 2005 to meet global demand. Toyota also plans to introduce two hybrid sport utility vehicles early next year - the Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX400H.

"It may be difficult for us to produce (300,000) hybrids by that time, but we have another year to go so we'll make every effort," Cho told reporters.

Toyota also has raised its global vehicle sales target for the fiscal year ending March 31 to 7.2 million vehicles, an increase of 180,000 vehicles from an earlier forecast. Toyota sold 6.7 million vehicles around the world last fiscal year.

Cho acknowledged that a possible obstacle to reaching 300,000 hybrid sales is capacity. For now, all production takes place in Japan, but Cho said the company was studying the possibility of building hybrids in the United States.

Hybrids draw power from two energy sources, typically a gas or diesel engine combined with an electric motor.

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