Toyota Motor Corp is set to start producing small passenger cars for Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd to sell under the Subaru brand name in Europe amid stricter emissions targets, a news report said yesterday.
Toyota, which acquired a 8.7 percent stake in the manufacturer of Subaru vehicles last year, will begin production of the Passo cars as early as this year at a subsidiary's factory in western Japan, according to the Nikkei Shimbun, Japan's largest business daily.
Fuji has been trying to expand its European lineup, which includes the Legacy sedan, to include fuel-efficient smaller models -- an area of strength for Toyota.
The Passo is to be manufactured by Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu Motor Co, which also sells it as the Boon in Japan and the Sirion in Europe.
Toyota plans to slightly modify the Sirion and supply Fuji with 5,000 to 10,000 units a year, the Nikkei said. Officials at Toyota and Fuji were unavailable for comment yesterday, a public holiday.
The report comes as auto makers scrambled to meet new European emission targets for carbon dioxide.
The EU auto industry has set a voluntary target to achieve average emissions for new cars of 140g of carbon dioxide per kilometer by next year, down from an average of 161g per kilometer in 2004.
Toyota and Fuji announced plans last year to collaborate in the US, where the Subaru maker will produce Toyota's popular Camry sedan at its Indiana plant from spring.
Separately, Toyota is developing a fail-safe system for cars that detects drunk drivers and automatically shuts the vehicle down if sensors pick up signs of excessive alcohol consumption, a news report said yesterday.
Cars fitted with the detection system will not start if sweat sensors in the driving wheel detect high levels of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream, according to a report carried by the mass-circulation daily Asahi Shimbun.
The system could also kick in if the sensors detect abnormal steering, or if a special camera shows that the driver's pupils are not in focus. The car is then slowed to a halt, the report said.
The world's No. 2 automaker hopes to fit cars with the system by the end of 2009, according to the report. Calls to Toyota's headquarters in Nagoya rang unanswered yesterday.
Nissan Motor Co, another Japanese car manufacturer, has already been experimenting with breathalyzer-like devices that could detect if a driver was drunk. Similar technologies, such as alcohol ignition interlocks, are in use in the US and elsewhere.
Concerns over drunk driving have surged in Japan following a series of alcohol-related accidents last year.
In August, a drunk driver collided with another vehicle carrying a family of five, plunging them off a bridge and killing three children.
The incident prompted stepped-up roadside spot checks by police, who also plan to stiffen penalties for drunk driving.
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