Toyota Motor Corp., Asia's largest automaker, began selling its smallest hybrid car in Japan yesterday to compete with Honda Motor Co. for younger consumers seeking an entry-level fuel-efficient vehicle.
The Aqua compact hybrid, to be marketed as the Prius C in the US, will cost from 1.69 million yen (Dh79,710), the Japan-based carmaker said in a statement. The company aims to sell 12,000 Aquas a month in its home market.
Toyota is counting on gasoline-electric models to meet a goal of increasing global vehicle sales 20 per cent next year. Honda's Fit compact car, sold in hybrid and conventional gasoline-engine versions, outsold the larger Prius in the first six months of this year in Japan, underscoring consumer demand for smaller, fuel-efficient cars.
Effort to boost sales
"The Aqua shows Toyota is increasing efforts to boost sales in the domestic market," said Mamoru Kato, an auto analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center in Nagoya, Japan. "Toyota raised the price of the Prius to a more profitable level, so the Aqua serves to meet demand for smaller, cheaper hybrids."
The Aqua measures 3.9 metres in length, compared with the 4.48-metre Prius, and has as much legroom as a Corolla compact, according to chief engineer Satoshi Ogiso.
It costs 22 per cent less than the Prius, which starts from 2.17 million yen, according to Toyota's website.
Domestic sales of the Prius plummeted 51 per cent in the first six months of this year to 83,319 vehicles as Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami disrupted production.