updated 11/11/2008 8:06:22 PM ET 2008-11-12T01:06:22

Toyota rolled its first Venza wagon off the factory floor in Kentucky on Monday as the automaker tries to push further into the small vehicle market.

Toyota Motor Sales USA will price the five-person wagon between $25,975 for its V-4, front-wheel drive model, and $29,250 for the V-6, all-wheel drive model, the automaker said. The inline four-cylinder model gets an estimated 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway, Toyota said, while the V-6 gets slightly less.

The V-6 model will hit dealerships in early December, with full production and sales of both models starting in January, Toyota said.

The Japanese automaker has had success in the small-car market recently with such cars as the Yaris subcompact, one of the few cars that has posted rising sales this year in the difficult vehicle market.

Rival Honda Motor Co. has had similar results with its small car, the Fit, whose sales rose 33 percent in October alone.

The Venza, which is built in Georgetown, Ky., on the platform of its mid-size Camry sedan, will be sold exclusively in North America, it said. The Venza’s factory, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc., is Toyota’s largest North American factory.

Toyota, the No. 1 Japanese automaker by sales, has taken a beating from the difficult auto market in the U.S. in recent months. Last week, it said its U.S. sales tumbled 23 percent in October and issued a grim profit forecast for its fiscal year.

However, it remains in better shape than its Detroit competitors. On Friday, both General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. reported heavy third-quarter losses, and GM said it could reach the minimum cash needed to operate its business next year.

U.S.-traded shares of Toyota rose 63 cents to close at $69.15.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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