Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Toyota making more hybrids as gasoline costs rise

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Toyota Motor Corp boosted production of the Prius gasoline-electric car by a third in April, taking advantage of surging oil prices that boosted demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.

Production of the so-called hybrid cars was raised to 10,000 units a month from 7,500 in central Japan's Aichi Prefecture, spokesman Shigeru Hayakawa said in Tokyo.

The US$25,000 price tag on a Prius, more than 10 percent higher than a comparable car running on gasoline, is attracting more consumers after regular-grade gasoline prices rose 39 percent on average this year to US$2.051 a gallon.

The Prius can go as far as 89km on a gallon of gasoline while emitting 90 percent less tailpipe exhaust than the average new car of a same-size engine, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Demand for hybrid-electric cars has risen 41 percent in the US to a record 22,919 units this year through April, led by a 78 percent increase for the Prius and a 10.9 percent gain for Honda's Civic Hybrid and Insight models.

Toyota's Lexus luxury unit will start selling a hybrid version of the RX 330 sport-utility vehicle late this year.

Ford Motor Co plans to produce gasoline-electric version of its Escape sport-utility vehicle next month in the US, while General Motors Corp plans to sell hybrid large pickup trucks later this year. Nissan plans to release a hybrid Altima sedan in the US in 2006.

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