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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. Vice Chairman Fujio Cho has expressed willingness to produce the Prius electric-gasoline hybrid car in the United States, where demand for the vehicle has been growing.

“I have been proposing that the hot-selling car be produced in the United States,” Cho told a news conference Saturday. He is visiting the U.S. to attend a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the incorporation of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc.

Industry watchers say Toyota is likely to pick the U.S. production site by the end of 2008 when it introduces a fully remodeled Prius.

Toyota started its first overseas production of the environmentally friendly Prius in December, producing it in China under a joint venture for the Chinese market.

For other overseas markets, the car is exported from Japan.

Toyota has increased annual production capacity of the Prius in Japan to 180,000 units, but supply has been short in the U.S., where consumers are opting to buy fuel-efficient cars due to rising gasoline prices.

Cho was president of the Kentucky manufacturing unit from 1988 to 1994.

He said he has instructed engineers in Japan to work on downsizing components for the Prius to a quarter of their existing size.

Such efforts are essential for Toyota to reduce the cost of manufacturing hybrid cars at overseas plants because those factories have to procure key components, including batteries, from Japan.

China unit ups output

Toyota FAW (Tianjin) Dies Co., a stamping die-making subsidiary of Japan’s top automaker, can now produce dies for use in six car models instead of the previous three, Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday.

The die producer has also begun production for export. Its output has been sold only in China until now, Toyota said. The Chinese firm’s dies will be the first such foreign-made Toyota product sold abroad.

To date, the Chinese unit, formed in March 2004 and owned 90 percent by Toyota with the rest held by China FAW Group Corp., has supplied its dies to Tianjin FAW Toyota Motor Co. and Tianjin FAW Xiali Automobile Co.