Toyota Motor Corp. has developed a new fuel-saving hybrid system that will halve production costs for new vehicles from those of the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, the company announced Tuesday.

The THS-M system, shortened from Toyota Hybrid System-Mild, comprises a small motor-cum-generator connected to a high-efficiency 3,000cc engine by an electrical accessories-powering belt and a compact secondary battery for supply to the motor and a control unit.

The system improves fuel efficiency by 15 percent over conventional vehicles with automatic transmissions and reduces emissions, it said, adding that the system can be applied to many types of automobiles.

Toyota said it plans to roll out the first model equipped with the system this fall. While Toyota did not clarify which model will be equipped with the new system, the automaker is likely to adopt it for the Crown luxury sedan, industry sources said.

Hybrids combine an electric motor with the usual gas engine to deliver more mileage and less pollution. Toyota has taken the lead in hybrid technology with its Prius compact, which went on sale in 1997.

Building in Malaysia

Honda Motor Co. said Tuesday its new joint venture company in Malaysia will begin producing passenger cars at an annual rate of 20,000 units in early 2003.

DRB-Oriental Honda Sdn. Bhd. will manufacture the Civic, Accord and two other models. Founded last year, the joint venture will start building a plant on 320,000 sq. meters of land in Pegoh in July. Total investment is estimated at 5.4 billion yen.

DRB-Oriental Honda is capitalized at about 16 billion yen, with Honda having a 49 percent stake. The remaining 51 percent is split between two local companies — Oriental Holdings Bhd. and its subsidiary, Kah Motor Co.

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