Eco-friendly cars pushed at China auto trade show

BEIJING (Kyodo) Japanese automakers are promoting fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles at the 2004 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, looking to enhance their presence in the competitive Chinese market.

In China, where car sales have been picking up rapidly, air pollution in urban areas resulting from gas emissions and traffic congestion has become a major social problem.

Under a revised policy on the development of the automobile industry, the Chinese government is calling for improved environmental technologies and is aiming to enhance fuel efficiency by 15 percent by 2010.

Toyota Motor Corp. Senior Managing Director Akio Toyoda emphasized at the show that the revised policy, which calls for the promotion of hybrid technologies, is encouraging for Toyota.

“If Toyota can contribute (to the policy), we’re happy to put more of our efforts into it,” Toyoda said.

A hybrid system combines an electric motor with a standard gasoline engine. It provides pollution-free, silent travel at low speeds in urban areas with the electric motor, and more power on open roads from the standard engine.

Nissan Motor Co. is also promoting its environmentally friendly technologies at the exhibition by presenting its Effis car that runs on fuel cell batteries.

“The Chinese government is very interested in environmental issues and is trying to overcome the problems,” said Nissan Senior Vice President Toshiyuki Shiga.

Honda Motor Co., the front runner among Japanese automakers in China, unveiled a new version of its Fit compact model at the show.

Honda started selling the Fit in the Chinese market last year and aims to boost sales by launching the new version, which features high fuel efficiency of more than 2 km per liter.

Honda hopes the strategy will pay off at a time when rising gas prices are weighing heavily on Chinese consumers.

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