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Monday, January 11, 2010

Detroit Auto Show

Toyota unveils pint-sized hybrid concept car


AP – Toyota FT-CH compact hybrid concept car is shown at the North American International Auto Show Monday, …

  • Mon Jan 11, 2:47 pm ET              

    DETROIT – Toyota unveiled a new hybrid concept car that is smaller than the Prius and geared toward younger buyers, part of the company's hybrid and alternative-fuel lineup, which it is expanding over the next several years.

    The Japanese automaker showed off the FT-CH compact at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday, and it confirmed it plans to expand the Prius brand from a single vehicle to a family of hybrids.

    The FT-CH could be sold under the Prius name, Toyota said.

    The plan to broaden the Prius brand is a sign of its success and loyalty among buyers. The Prius, which launched in the U.S. in 2000, has long been the nation's top-selling hybrid and was the best-selling vehicle overall in Japan last year.

    "The strategy is still taking shape and obviously it will require additional models to qualify as a family," said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, a division of Toyota Motor Corp.

    Hybrids run on batteries and gasoline.

    Toyota said the two-door FT-CH, 22 inches shorter than the Prius, is lighter and more fuel efficient and its styling, inspired by 8-bit video games popular during the 1980s, is intended to appeal to younger buyers.

    The FT-CH, as a concept vehicle, has no official sales or production schedule.

    Toyota said it plans to sell 1 million hybrids worldwide each year by launching eight new models over the next few years.

    It also plans to offer plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars starting in model-year 2012 and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in 2015.

    Toyota recently launched a global demonstration program of its plug-in hybrid technology. Starting early this year, Toyota is sending 150 plug-in Priuses with lithium-ion batteries — less bulky than the nickel-metal hydride batteries that currently power hybrids — to the U.S. for testing.

    The automaker also said Monday it will send more than 100 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles to universities, companies and government agencies in California and New York to publicize hydrogen fuel-cell technology.


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