Toyota to market hybrid Prius cars in U.S., Europe

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TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Co. is to launch its eco-friendly hybrid Prius cars in North America and Europe in 2000.

The Prius, which uses a combination electric and gas powered engine, is expected to sell about 20,000 units per year in the two markets. The Jap- anese carmaker says it has not decided on a retail price for the automobile.

Toyota launched the Prius in Japan last December and has sold 7,700 cars since then. But the company is planning to revise the hybrid technology it uses for the Prius when it takes the car overseas in order to make the fuel-efficient cars more suitable for driving conditions in the new markets.

By the time Toyota gets its exports in full gear, it is aiming to sell about 5,000 units a month.

In Japan, the Prius is priced at $15,357. The car is more fuel efficient then vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines and produces fewer emissions.

The hybrid car uses a gasoline engine, electric motor and electric generator and, according to Toyota tests, the engine achieves nearly twice the fuel efficiency of conventional gasoline powered cars.

In-house testing claims to show a hybrid car with a 1.5-liter engine has about 50% less carbon dioxide emissions than a 1.5-liter gasoline powered Corolla model car.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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