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Friday, March 17, 2006
Toyota launches first Lexus hybrid engine-equipped
By ERIKO ARITA
Toyota Motor Corp. on Thursday unveiled the Lexus GS450h, the first hybrid in the luxury sedan's lineup.
The GS450h will be priced at between 6.8 million yen and 7.7 million yen, and the world's second-largest carmaker said it hopes to sell 150 units a month.
Toyota said the GS450h is powered by the world's first hybrid system designed especially for rear-wheel-drive cars, giving them greater fuel efficiency, low emissions and high power.
"While (the hybrid Lexus) has power equivalent to that of a 4.5-liter-engine, it boasts high fuel efficiency, equal to that of a 2-liter-engine," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters in Tokyo. "We sought to reduce carbon dioxide (emissions) and make the exhaust gas cleaner."
The GS450h is Toyota's first luxury car with a hybrid engine for mass production, according to the company. Toyota plans to start selling the sedan in North America, Europe and Oceania later this year and aims to sell total 5,700 units worldwide in 2006, Watanabe said.
Japan's top automaker launched three remodeled Lexus vehicles, priced between 3.9 million yen and 6.8 million yen, in the domestic market last August, aiming to compete with foreign luxury car brands, including Mercedes Benz.
But Toyota has been fighting an uphill battle. Its sales target for the models was 20,000 vehicles by the end of 2005. However, only 10,300 units were sold, according to company officials. Toyota's monthly sales target is 3,000 units, but February sales only came to 1,400.
Sales of foreign cars, excluding minivehicles, are up in contrast. In February, there were 18,638 vehicles sold, up 5.2 percent from the prior year, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association.
JAMA names chief The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association has tapped Toyota Motor Corp.'s Fujio Cho to be its new chairman, JAMA sources said Thursday.
The Toyota vice chairman will succeed Itaru Koeda, cochairman of Nissan Motor Co.