Fuji Heavy may launch hybrid vehicle by '12


Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. may introduce a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle by 2012, as the United States, Japan and Europe tighten their emission rules.

The company, the maker of Subaru-brand cars, plans to develop a new diesel engine that meets tougher environmental standards by 2011 or 2012 and “hopes to introduce a hybrid around the same time,” President Ikuo Mori told reporters Wednesday in Tokyo.

Fuji Heavy has said it plans to use a hybrid system developed by Toyota Motor Corp., its biggest shareholder. U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday announced the first national standard for greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles and tougher rules for fuel mileage.

Automakers must now meet average efficiency standards of 15 km per liter by 2016, four years sooner than previously planned. The new standards would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 900 million tons through 2016, according to the administration. Europe and Japan also plan to implement tougher regulations around the same time.

Separately, Mori said the company in the U.S. is encouraging dealers that operate showrooms both for bankrupt Chrysler LLC and Subaru to switch to Fuji Heavy’s finance company. There are about 20 dealers that handle both brands, Mori said.

Chrysler on May 14 asked court permission to cancel 789 car dealership agreements. U.S. dealers are struggling with a 37 percent sales decline this year through April that may force General Motors Corp., the country’s biggest automaker, to seek bankruptcy as well.

New Legacy models

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru-brand cars, aims to sell 3,000 units of its revamped Legacy a month in Japan and is betting on the redesign to help stem losses and plunging sales.

The new Legacy sedans and wagons went on sale Wednesday starting at ¥2.2 million, Fuji Heavy said in a statement Wednesday. The fifth-generation Legacy is the flagship model’s first revamp in six years.

The Tokyo-based company plans to release the model in North America and Europe later this year and expects to sell 15,000 units a month globally. Fuji Heavy’s domestic sales have plummeted 27 percent this year through April along with overall auto demand as falling wages and rising unemployment keeps buyers out of dealer showrooms.

Japan and U.S. auto sales may have “bottomed,” after sliding 31 percent and 37 percent in the period, Fuji Heavy President Ikuo Mori told reporters at a press conference Wednesday in Tokyo.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday “a slight uptick” in its U.S. sales this month may mark the end of a collapse in industrywide demand. Still, major improvements are unlikely to happen before next year, Jim Lentz, president of Toyota’s U.S. sales unit, said Tuesday in Washington.

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