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Monday, June 09, 2008

Toyota to produce Camry hybrids in Australia from 2010

TOKYO - Toyota will start making the Camry gas-electric hybrid in Australia from early 2010, as part of the Japanese automaker's efforts to step up production of such green cars around the world, the company said Tuesday.

Toyota Motor Corp. said in a statement it plans annual production of 10,000 vehicles at the Altona plant in southeastern Australia - a bit of bright news for that nation's lagging auto industry.

Toyota became the first automaker in the world to commercially mass produce gas-electric hybrids with its Prius more than a decade ago.

In recent years, hybrids have been growing in popularity amid surging gas prices and concerns about global warming. Hybrids deliver better mileage than comparable regular cars by switching between the gas engine and an electric motor.

The news is a boost for Australia's auto industry. Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has recently shut down its plant in Adelaide, southern Australia.

"Australians are keenly aware of environmental issues including global warming, and we are confident that the Camry hybrid will be well received," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters.

Toyota has said it hopes to sell a million or more hybrid vehicles a year sometime after 2010. That would require boosting production of hybrids around the world, as it has taken about a decade for Toyota to reach cumulative global sales of a million Prius vehicles.

Toyota - growing at a pace that may allow it to overtake General Motors Corp. of the U.S. as the world's No. 1 automaker - said it is planning the best global hybrid production for making the technology widespread.

The Altona plant, which already makes the regular Camry sedans, now has annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, and made 149,000 vehicles last year.

© The Canadian Press, 2008



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