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NAGOYA (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. plans to set the price for the base model of its new Prius gas-electric hybrid at ¥2.05 million, or nearly ¥300,000 lower than its current counterpart, company sources said Friday.

It also plans to launch a small new hybrid in Japan priced at less than ¥2 million around 2011, the sources said.

In a bid to retain its leadership in the global hybrid market, Toyota has decided to make the popular Prius more affordable in light of the sparkling sales Honda has been racking up with the ¥1.89 million Insight, the sources said.

The new Prius, due to debut in Japan in mid-May, will have a 1.8-liter engine instead of the 1.5-liter engine driving the current model. Since fuel economy will improve nearly 9 percent despite the bigger engine, industry watchers had expected the base price for the new Prius to start at around ¥2.5 million. The lowest-end Prius now costs ¥2.33 million.

Also, since Prius sales are also struggling amid the global economic downturn, Toyota thought selling a higher-priced model would turn away consumers.

Mazda open Fridays

BLOOMBERG

Mazda Motor Corp. will resume production on Fridays at two domestic factories next month, easing output cuts that began last year due to plunging automobile demand.

Two factories in Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, will operate on all Fridays, Mazda said in a statement Friday. Two other plants in the region will resume output on the first two Fridays of the month, it said.

Mazda, predicting its first loss in eight years, had reduced output at plants as part of its effort to trim production by 196,000 vehicles in the business year ending this month.

The company plans to cut 500 additional contract and seasonal workers by March 31, adding to 1,500 temporary jobs already eliminated.

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