• Kyodo News


Honda Motor Co. will market its new hybrid car for around ¥1.59 million, which will be the lowest sticker price for a gasoline-electric vehicle sold in Japan, company sources said Saturday.

Scheduled for release in September, the new Fit compact can travel 30 km on a liter of gasoline, the sources said.

The lowest-priced hybrid at the moment is Honda’s Insight, whose cheapest version goes for ¥1.89 million.

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to release a hybrid version of its popular Vitz compact as early as next year, possibly priced around ¥1.5 million. With a targeted fuel efficiency of over 40 km per liter, the competition between Toyota and Honda in the hybrid vehicle market is likely to intensify.

Honda is trying to boost sales of the new hybrid because it expects an overall fall in domestic auto sales following the October termination of government subsidies for fuel-efficient cars.

The price of the Fit’s current nonhybrid version, which can travel 24 km on a liter of gas, starts at ¥1.2 million.

About 26,000 Insights were sold from January through July, lagging far behind Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius, which sold 204,882 units during the same period.

Prius from Thailand JIJI Toyota Motor Corp. will start producing its Prius gasoline-electric hybrid in Thailand at the end of this year at the earliest, company officials said.

The automaker plans to export its hybrid system that includes the power train and batteries from Japan and produce thousands of units of the vehicle annually in the Southeast Asian country, the officials said.

At the Gateway assembly plant in Chachoengsao Province, Toyota will manufacture a new Prius model launched in Japan in May last year. The plant is producing models such as the Camry Hybrid sedan.

Toyota is considering making Thailand a hub to export the Prius to nearby countries. It aims to promote eco-friendly vehicles in China, which has become the world’s largest auto market, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, including Thailand and Indonesia.

In December 2005, Toyota started its first overseas production of the Prius in China, but the company has halted production there due to sluggish sales.

Also, the company dropped its plan to make the Prius at a new U.S. plant in Mississippi, in the wake of the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in autumn 2008.

Tacoma in Texas

NEW YORK (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. held a ceremony at its San Antonio plant Thursday to mark the start of production of the Tacoma pickup truck there.

The Tacoma’s production was moved to Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. from NUMMI, or New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., a California-based 50-50 joint venture between Toyota and General Motors Co. that closed in April.

Tacoma production at the San Antonio plant began in July, with the output shift bringing $100 million in investment and 1,000 new jobs there.

In a speech at the ceremony, Atsushi Niimi, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corp., called the massive recalls of Toyota vehicles and subsequent congressional hearings and intense media coverage “one of Toyota’s biggest learning experiences.”

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