Toyota Hopes to Sell 62,000 Hybrid SUVs Worldwide in 2005
TOKYO, JAPAN — Toyota Motor Corp. said on March 22 that it planned to sell a combined 62,000 units of its two new hybrid sport/utility vehicles worldwide this year, with sales starting in most major markets over the next three months, according to Reuters.Unveiling the new Harrier (Lexus RX400h) and Kluger (Toyota Highlander) SUVs in Tokyo, Toyota said it expected monthly sales of 500 units in Japan for each model. Japan’s top auto maker plans to export the models, called RX400h and Highlander in most overseas markets, to North America, Europe and Australia between April and June, aiming to sell a total 52,000 units abroad this calendar year.Sales of fuel-sipping gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles have grown rapidly over the past few years, particularly in the United States and Europe led mainly by Toyota’s aggressive drive to sell 300,000 hybrids annually either by this year or 2006.But the bulk of the sales is expected to come from the U.S. market, where Toyota has said the Lexus RX400h had collected at least 11,000 pre-sale orders before its April launch despite a price premium of about $4,753 over the non-hybrid version. Including other features such as a high-tech stability control system, the RX400h hybrid — the world’s first luxury SUV to mount a hybrid system — costs $8,000 more than the gasoline-only version, at $38,920 in Japan.Toyota said it would eventually aim to boost annual hybrid sales to 1 million units. President Fujio Cho stopped short of providing a specific date for that goal, but said: “If our goal of 300,000 units is reached by this year or next, I think 1 million within the following few years might be possible, but everyone around me says that would be difficult.”Ford Motor Co. last year became the first automaker to sell a hybrid-version SUV, while General Motors Corp. is also aiming to introduce the technology on its bigger vehicles as more consumers seek better fuel efficiency in light of the recent rise in gasoline prices.The new SUVs, being built at a plant in the southern island of Kyushu, are powered by a 3.3L V-6 gasoline engine coupled with an improved hybrid system that gets acceleration comparable to a 5.0L gasoline engine while releasing less harmful emissions.Both SUVs can be driven more than 30 miles on a gallon of gas — comparable to a compact car and a significant improvement over the same models powered by a gasoline engine only.