Toyota Fast-Tracking a Low-Cost Hybrid
According to a report in Automotive News, Toyota is currently developing a new hybrid vehicle that will be cheaper than the just-released Prius and give the manufacturer a heads-up counterpart to the new Honda Insight. Japan's largest automaker is already on record as saying that it plans to launch up to 10 new hybrid models by the early 2010s. But in comments made this week in Japan to the business publication Nikkei News, Akihiko Otsuka, head engineer on the new Prius, recognized a new sense of urgency with respect to addressing the cost issue as it impacts potential sales of these greener vehicles. He confirmed that Toyota will concentrate on developing smaller and less-pricey hybrids that could be spun from conventional platforms like the domestic model Vitz and the Yaris, which is marketed internationally. Otsuka was quoted as saying the primary focus in creating the new Prius was on improving its fuel economy, not on reducing its sticker price. The instant market success of the new and less-costly Honda Insight in Japan -- and the implications for its likely popularity with American consumers -- clearly has had a significant impact on Toyota's product planners.