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Old 11-03-2006, 11:58 AM   #1
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Default Toyota May Use Prius as Basis for Line of Hybrids

Toyota May Use Prius as Basis for Line of Hybrids


Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp., the world's top seller of gasoline-electric autos, may turn its Prius car into a line of vehicles as the company tries to triple annual U.S. sales of hybrids.

The U.S. will account for more than half of the 1 million hybrid cars and light trucks Toyota plans to sell worldwide each year by early next decade, Jim Lentz, executive vice president of the company's U.S. sales unit, said yesterday. Prius-based models might include a wagon and a smaller car, he said.

``For us to do 600,000, there will probably have to be Prius and derivatives of Prius that are selling in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 400,000,'' Lentz said in an interview at the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas. ``We don't have any plans to do that right now, but that's the direction that nameplate can go, because it is that strong.''

Toyota, the world's second-largest automaker, has been the most aggressive in promoting gasoline-electric autos as the best available technology to curb fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. Last year, the Toyota City, Japan-based company sold 235,000 hybrids worldwide, about four times as many as Honda Motor Co., which ranks second in such sales.

In the U.S., Toyota, Honda and Ford Motor Co. sold a total of 210,954 hybrid cars and sport-utility vehicles this year through October, a 23 percent increase from a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Toyota accounted for 76 percent of the sales, and the Prius was the best-selling hybrid.

`Equity in the Prius Name'

``To the extent they can leverage derivatives to help amortize investment costs for the hybrid system, they'd be crazy not to,'' said Eric Noble, president of consulting firm Car Lab in Orange, California. ``There is so much equity in the Prius name at this point, that would make sense, especially in the near term.''

A smaller ``city car'' based on the Prius would have even higher fuel efficiency and would fit with ``a trend toward people moving into inner-city lofts,'' Lentz said. ``People also want to see more utility on the vehicle, so you could imagine something that's a little more utility or crossover-based.''

Hybrids reduce fuel use and tailpipe pollution by combining a gasoline engine with electric motors, a battery pack and brakes to capture energy from stopping.

U.S. sales of the Prius fell in this year's first quarter because of limited inventory, Lentz said. Through October, they declined 1.4 percent to 89,762. Lentz said Prius sales this year will be about 110,000, which would be up from 107,897 in 2005.

Hybrids have helped Toyota challenge General Motors Corp. to become the world's largest automaker by sales. GM's first true hybrid, the Saturn Vue Green Line, went on sale this month.

``The demand for hybrids overall is still going up and for Prius it's still going up,'' said Lentz, who is based at Toyota's U.S. sales headquarters in Torrance, California. ``I don't see that we're anywhere close to saturating demand for that car.''

Toyota's American depositary receipts fell 45 cents to $117.55 at 4:27 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They have gained 12 percent this year.
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Old 11-03-2006, 12:41 PM   #2
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2013 Sonic Turbo


I'd love a 3 Door Prius "Sport". What I'd really like to see is a Hybrid MR2 though.
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