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Toyota To Launch Subcompact Hybrid in 2011

Late in 2011, Toyota Motor Corp will launch a hybrid sub-compact and broaden its electric car line-up. The vehicle will be available for 1.5 million yen, or $15,760. Government tax breaks, subsidies on cleaner technology, and an increasing demand for gasoline-electric vehicles have promoted EVs in Japan greatly.  Toyota may have future plans to produce the new hybrid model in France as well, to cater to a European market.

According to a Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, the new hybrid compact by Toyota will use the platform and engine of the Yaris sub-compact, which is likely to be fully remodeled before launch in order to compete with the fuel efficiency and cost competitiveness of the Prius.

Subcompact

Dominant automakers Honda Motor Company and Toyota have reduced prices on their premier hybrid cars recently. The price of Toyota’s Prius has been lowered to 2.05 million yen and that of Honda’s Insight has been lowered to 1.89 million yen.

The month of April listed Honda’s Insight, the first hybrid car, on top of the best selling cars list. However, in May, Toyota’s new Prius replaced the Insight, and became the No.1 hybrid car in the Japanese market.

The Toyota sub-compact hybrid, which is yet to be launched, would be a tough contender to some of the upcoming small hybrid cars like Honda’s Fit Compact and the Honda CR-Z Hybrid.  It has been reported by The Daily that the automaker is likely to raise its daily production target in Japan. This will increase production to about 13,500 units in September and around 13,700 in October.

Honda FitWhy the sub?

Toyota and Honda have introduced sub-compact hybrid models to introduce a fresh alternative to existing hybrid cars (which were mostly SUVs) in the last couple of years. These SUV hybrids are more fuel-efficient (15 to 20 percent more than their counterparts). However, the mpg of these models ranges from the late teens to the early twenties.

The new subcompact hybrids are likely to be marked high in the fuel economy rankings, possibly at the 50 mpg mark or higher. Moreover, their prices are slated to be comparatively lower than the prices of current hybrid cars.

If the past is any predictor, car enthusiasts and organizations such as CalCars will begin upgrading these new hybrids into plug-in models as soon as they are released.  It remains to be seen, however, if and when they are brought to the American market, whether they will be adopted on a mass scale by an increasingly price-conscious and choosy consumer.

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