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Toyota Plans Major Hybrid News for Detroit Show

An announcement on the branding of Toyota’s future rear-wheel-drive sports car tentatively is set for April’s New York auto show.

DANA POINT, CA – Toyota Motor Corp. will make a major announcement regarding the expansion of its U.S. hybrid-electric-vehicle lineup during next month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“What you can expect from us is a very clear corporate vision with regard to our hybrid (vehicles) and our environmental strategies,” Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager-Toyota Div., Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., says during a Sienna minivan media preview.

The announcement will showcase all-new models as well as next-generation HEVs. A Toyota Motor Corp. official said earlier this year the auto maker was at work on a hybrid version of the Yaris subcompact that would go head-to-head with Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s Insight.

Toyota has been kicking around the idea of offering the Prius HEV in different body styles. However, TMSUSA President Jim Lentz told Ward’s last month that, contrary to reports, Prius iterations are not a done deal.

As part of its Detroit announcements, Toyota also make news regarding other alternative powertrain technologies, such as plug-in hybrids and all-electric and fuel-cell vehicles, Carter says.

Toyota is putting Prius plug-in hybrids into test fleets in the U.S. soon and has stated it will introduce EVs and FCVs in 2012 and 2015, respectively.

“We’re in a leadership position in a number of areas, but one of them is environmental responsibility,” Carter says. “We’re not going to give consumers any reason to believe that won’t continue in the future.”

Meanwhile, an announcement on the branding of Toyota’s future rear-wheel-drive sports car tentatively is set for April’s New York auto show.

Toyota has yet to decide on whether the model will be branded a Toyota or a Scion. Lentz said last month there were pros and cons for each, including the expanded scope of Toyota’s U.S. dealer body, a pro for branding the model a Toyota.

The youthful slant of the model is a reason to make it a Scion, he said in November.

The car, which debuted as the FT-86 concept vehicle at October’s Tokyo auto show, is being developed with partner Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru vehicles. Toyota has a 16.5% stake in Fuji, which will assemble the production version in Japan.

Subaru plans to sell a variation of the car in the U.S. But Carter says it is his understanding there will be “quite a bit of differentiation” between it and the Toyota model.

He is mum on whether, if branded a Toyota, the auto maker would revive the Celica or Supra monikers. And he is equally coy on pricing.

“If you’re asking, ‘Will the base price start with a two or a five, or a two or a four?’ it’s going to be the lower end of that,” Carter says.

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