CAMRY
Toyota via AP
Toyota says its best-selling Camry will get a hybrid sibling in 2006, when the model also goes through a redesign.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/12/2005 2:56:08 PM ET 2005-05-12T18:56:08

Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday that a news report claiming it had decided to sell a hybrid Camry and build it in the United States was incorrect.

"We have not finalized our plans," Dan Sieger, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Manufacturing  North America, told MSNBC.com.

Earlier Thursday, The Associated Press reported from Nagoya, Japan, that Toyota officials had made the announcement.

Sieger said Toyota "hoped to make a decision by the middle of this year," but that neither a decision to sell a hybrid Camry in the United States or to build one here had been made.

The Associated Press had reported that production would take place in Kentucky.

Such a move would mark Toyota's second overseas production of an environmentally friendly gas-electric vehicle. The first is production of its Prius hybrid in China starting this fall.

Toyota in 2006 is due to carry out a full model changeover on the Camry, which is the best seller in the U.S. passenger car market with sales reaching 420,000 units last year.

In the United States, the Prius has aroused strong demand amid rising gasoline prices. But sales are still tiny compared to Camry figures.

GM, Toyota talk fuel cells
Toyota and U.S. carmaker General Motors Corp. are reportedly also discussing ways to boost their cooperation in developing eco-friendly vehicles.

A source familiar with the plans said GM and Toyota are in early discussions about collaborating on a fuel cell partnership, which could lead to joint production on alternative systems to gasoline engines.

Fuel cells use a chemical reaction between hydrogen and air to create electricity. Hybrid systems are also being incorporated to add power to fuel cell vehicles.

GM and Toyota, which have collaborated since 1999 on research toward alternative fuel systems, have held discussions since October on joint work toward fuel cells, the source said.

GM, even as it has struggled with declining U.S. market share due in part to fierce competition from Toyota, has invested billions of dollars in fuel cell research.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which emit only water, could ease the environmental debate over cars and help vehicles meet stricter emissions regulations. They could also provide a counter to rising energy prices.

While GM has set its sites on having fuel cell vehicles available in the next decade, Toyota is the world leader in production of hybrid vehicles.

Analyst sees potential
Cooperation between the world’s two largest automakers would send a signal to governments, the energy industry and suppliers that the fuel cell vehicles will become a reality, said Lindsay Brooke, a senior analyst with automotive consultants CSM Worldwide.

“What they’re talking about has the potential to raise the agenda further,” Brooke said.

Issues such as the availability, transportation and storage of hydrogen will have to be addressed in the future, Brooke said. The automotive industry will also have to set up a network of suppliers for the fuel cell systems, he said.

The source cautioned that the talks could falter. The two automakers have said little publicly about tangible results for their six-year joint research efforts.

Fuel cell vehicles are still about 10 times more expensive than traditional vehicles, but GM has made strides in bringing costs down while improving durability, GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said in January.

Wagoner also repeated his hope in January to do more collaboration with other automakers in fuel cell research, in order to cut costs and grow the infrastructure for the vehicles.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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