Toyota to unveil new hybrid, compact models in China

Bloomberg, AP

Toyota Motor Corp., Asia’s biggest automaker, will start selling a new compact model in China next year to boost its presence in the world’s biggest car market.

Toyota will also introduce a car with a hybrid system primarily developed at its research and development facilities in Changshu, China, President Akio Toyoda said Monday at Auto China 2012 in Beijing, where the company is displaying 38 models. He didn’t say when the company would start selling the hybrid car.

The maker of Prius hybrids, the world’s best-selling gasoline-electric vehicle, has forecast it will sell a record 9.58 million units globally this year, led by a wider lineup of models. Sales of cars under the Toyota and Lexus luxury brands rose 4 percent to 883,000 units in China last year.

Toyota began building the third-generation Prius hybrid in China in 2011. The company expects production of hybrid system components in China to be localized by around 2015, Toyota said Dec. 19.

Automakers are looking to China to drive revenue amid weakness in the United States and Europe. But explosive sales growth that hit 35 percent in 2010 fell to just 2 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Ford Motor Co. premiered its latest SUV, the scaled-down EcoSport, designed for “urban adventurers” with a 1-liter engine. The vehicle is due to be made at Ford’s main China factory in the southwestern city of Chongqing.

“This new SUV is specially designed for growth markets like China,” said Kumai Galhotra, Ford’s vice president of product development for the Asia-Pacific region.

Automakers that used to sell the same models worldwide with few local changes increasingly create products with Chinese buyers in mind.

Nissan, Toyota and other automakers also used Auto China 2012 to showcase luxury sedans and SUVs aimed at Chinese buyers.

Mazda Motor Corp., Japan’s least profitable major carmaker, expects sales in China to increase 26 percent this year as the company boosts its lineup of sport utility vehicles in the country.

Sales in China will probably reach 270,000 vehicles in 2012, President Takashi Yamanouchi said Monday at the show. The company delivered 214,799 units last year, according to Mazda.

Mazda will introduce its CX-5 SUV in the world’s largest automobile market this summer, and begin production of the model at its factory in Nanjing next year, Yamanouchi said. The carmaker will also start selling the CX-9 SUV to China next year.

Separately, Yamanouchi said the carmaker is still waiting for approval on the restructuring of its venture with Ford Motor Co. and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Mazda said in May 2010 that it had submitted a proposal to the Chinese government on the partnership.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the Tokyo-based carmaker, aims to begin sales of its Mirage compact by the end of fiscal 2013, President Osamu Masuko said Monday in Beijing. It targets to sell 100,000 units of the model a year, he said.