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.
By Miguel Llanos Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 8/16/2005 9:18:57 AM ET 2005-08-16T13:18:57

Taking its hybrid strategy to a new level, Toyota Motor Corp. announced Tuesday that it will sell a gas-electric Camry in the United States and even build it here.

The Camry is the best selling sedan in the United States, and Toyota already leads industry hybrid sales with its Prius sedan, which is built in Japan.

“The continued success of Prius has demonstrated consumers’ growing demand for hybrid vehicles,” Jim Press, a Toyota Motor Sales executive vice president, said in a statement announcing the hybrid Camry. “Hybrid production in the U.S. will allow us to be even more responsive to the desires of our customers.”

No price has been announced yet for the hybrid Camry, but hybrids typically cost $3,000-$5,000 more than gas-only siblings. A $2,000 federal tax deduction for 2005 helps defray the cost, as does the significantly higher mileage, which can range from 25 to 50 percent better than similarly sized gasoline vehicles.

Hybrids also appeal to certain buyers because of their sharply reduced emissions of smog-forming pollutants as well as carbon dioxide, a gas tied to global warming.

Capacity for 48,000
Toyota said hybrid Camry production will begin in late 2006 at its Georgetown, Ky., plant and that capacity will allow for 48,000 hybrids a year. That's just a few thousand less than total Prius sales in the United States last year.

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.

Some $10 million will be invested for hybrid production at the plant, but fewer than 100 new jobs are foreseen, Toyota said. Some 7,000 people are already employed at the plant, which currently builds the gasoline-powered Camry, Avalon and Solara and has total capacity for 500,000 vehicles a year.

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher welcomed the move, even if it doesn't mean many new jobs. “This is a proud day for the entire state of Kentucky,” he said in the statement. “For nearly 20 years, Toyota has called Kentucky home.”

It was Toyota's decision to build its Georgetown plant a generation ago that made Kentucky a boom state in the automobile assembly and supply business. Toyota President Fujio Cho ran the Georgetown plant for seven years after it opened.

Second U.S.-built hybrid?
Toyota said specific details on the Camry hybrid will be released "at a later date."

The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that Toyota is also considering the possibility of producing the Prius hybrid or a hybrid version of the small Corolla sedan in North America.

Toyota's other hybrids sold in the United States are the Lexus RX 400h SUV, which went on sale in April, and the hybrid Highlander SUV will go on sale in June. Both are built in Japan.

A 2007 Lexus GS 450h hybrid sedan is targeted for sale in the spring of 2006, Toyota added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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