Toyota Faces Hybrid Challengers

by | Dec 21, 2007

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Honda chief Takeo Fukui says the company will battle Toyota for eco-supremacy in the years ahead, Business Week reports. That’s not an easy task, the Prius alone accounted for 50 percent of all hybrid sales in the U.S. last month.

The next phase of hybrids, Fukui argues, will focus on improving the economics of buying a hybrid. “The price needs to be reasonable and fuel efficiency higher so the [premium] the consumer pays [for a hybrid car] can be returned in a short period of time,” he says. To achieve that goal, he confirmed that Honda will launch a long-awaited, hybrid-only model in 2009. Honda plans on producing 200,000 of the new hybrids per year. The company is also planning to launch its first-ever hybrid sports car.

Chevy is squaring off with Toyota too. A recent marketing campaign touts Chevrolet’s five “Fuel Solutions:” more efficient internal combustion engines; biofuels such as E85 ethanol; gas-electric hybrids; electrically driven vehicles; and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The brand’s new tagline is “Chevrolet, from gas-friendly to gas-free.”

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid – the first General Motors vehicle to use the company’s all-new two-mode hybrid system – has been named Green Car Journal’s 2008 Green Car of the Year.

Toyota is planning its own moves and is considering creating a family of Prius gas-electric hybrid sedans by adding new versions. In speaking about the additional models, Tokiuchi Uranishi, head of Toyota’s global sales operations, strongly suggested he favors offering a hybrid minivan in the U.S. market.

The winners in the hybrid wars will be the ones offering the whole package. “The key will be–do they look different, how are they priced and do they offer that much of an advantage? It had better offer gasoline advantages and look different. That’s what’s required,” says one industry expert.

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