For the first time in six months, demand for Toyota Motor's Prius electric hybrid has picked up significantly, enabling the company to raise its production targets, which will be met through overtime production at two Japanese plants from next month.
The Nikkei daily reported that Toyota has decided to increase the production of its new Prius, the 2010, by around 20 per cent from around 42,000 to about 50,000 units per month, requiring enhanced production timings for which the Japanese car maker plans to introduce overtime next month at its two factories at Kariya and Toyota where the Prius is manufactured.
Last month, Toyota had raised its full year production target for the new hybrid from 300,000 to 450,000-500,000 units for 2009. In 2008, it is reported to have sold 280,000 units.
In Japan, the pre-orders for the 2010 Prius began last month and the official launch started on 18 May. In the US, Toyota is launching an aggressive campaign for the sale of this model at the end of this month. Toyota Prius is already a well established hybrid in North America. (See: New Toyota Prius to debut US market by end May).
The advance orders for Prius in Japan have surpassed Toyota's expectations, which were initially pegged at 40,000 but later raised to 60,000-70,000, according to the report
In Japan Toyota sold 73,100 units of the current Prius model last year.
Moreover, the Honda Insight became the best selling car in Japan in April with the basic model available for 1.89 million yen whereas the new Prius is priced at 2.05 million yen, lower than the 280,000 yen for the previous version. Toyoto has reduced its price mainly to reduce the price difference with rival Honda's Insight.
Prius will be available in two versions in engines sizes of 1.5-litres and 1.8-litres.The new 2010 hybrid car is reported to deliver a fuel economy of 51 miles per gallon in city traffic and 48 miles per gallon on the highway.
Like most auto makers, Toyoto too had to freeze wages, cut jobs and production to adjust for slumping demand. (See: Toyota plans production cuts, job reductions in North America)
Last month, Toyota Motors forecast sales in China to grow by at least a third in 2009 as global demand for fuel-efficient models are expected to pick up.
The company is also reported to be resorting to product and marketing innovations. Earlier this month month it announced plans to launch its luxury brand, the Lexus in India. (See: Toyota to launch Lexus in India soon) and is using technology to develop an innovative environmental vehicle in its quest to dominate alternate-fuel vehicles. (See: Toyota secretly developing total solar energy powered).
With auto sales in India having shown a recovery in the last three months, Toyota also plans to raise its production to full capacity of its Indian arm, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM), which had cut production to 3,500 units a month in November 2008. Starting this month, it plans a gradual increase in production to reach 5,000 units by July, apart from introducing two models during the current year.