• Kyodo

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Daihatsu Motor Co. plans to launch a new minicar next year that will be as efficient as gasoline-electric hybrid models, the company’s president said.

“We’d like to increase our presence by thoroughly boosting the efficiency of gasoline engines to emphasize environmental conservation,” Koichi Ina said of Daihatsu’s strategy to compete with rivals’ environmentally friendly cars.

The new minicar is designed to achieve 30 km per liter of gasoline under the official fuel-efficiency test that will take effect in 2015, against 32.6 km for Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid, 26 km for Honda Motor Co.’s Insight hybrid and 22.6 km for Suzuki Motor Corp.’s Wagon R minicar.

The price will be set at a reasonable level for a minicar, Ina said. By definition, minicars have an engine displacement of 660cc or less.

The new vehicle will be produced at Daihatsu’s second Oita plant in Nakatsu, Oita Prefecture, he said.

Daihatsu hopes to keep its annual minivehicle sales at the present level of about 600,000 units in the Japanese market, which is expected to shrink, Ina said. Daihatsu has held the biggest share of the domestic market since fiscal 2006.

Ina said Daihatsu’s overseas operations will be concentrated in Indonesia and Malaysia in the future.

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