updated 8/3/2005 2:08:13 PM ET 2005-08-03T18:08:13

Toyota Motor Corp. wants hybrids to make up 25 percent of its U.S. sales by early in the next decade and is considering adding the technology to its entire lineup, including trucks, Toyota’s North American president Jim Press said Wednesday.

“To us, it’s not a passing phase but a vital technology for the 21st century,” Press said at an annual automotive conference in this northern Michigan city.

Press spoke as Toyota announced that its profits fell 7 percent in its first fiscal quarter due to research costs and a stronger yen. The news was better in the United States, where Toyota announced Tuesday that July was its best-ever month for U.S. sales.

Press said Toyota wants to sell 1 million hybrids worldwide by early in the next decade. That would require the automaker to sell 600,000 hybrids in the United States, or about one-quarter of its projected sales.

That would require a significant increase in U.S. hybrid sales. A total of 83,153 hybrids were sold in the United States last year, according to R.L. Polk & Co., a Southfield, Mich.-based firm that collects and interprets automotive data. The Toyota Prius hybrid dominated that market, with 53,761 new Prius cars registered.

Press said Toyota will meet its goal by aggressively introducing new hybrid versions of its lineup. The company launched two hybrid sport utility vehicles this year — the Lexus RX 400h hybrid in April and the Toyota Highlander hybrid in June — and will introduce hybrid versions of the Lexus GS sedan and the Toyota Camry next year.

In addition, Press said Toyota has 10 hybrids under development.

“People are buying hybrids for good reasons beyond fuel economy,” Press said. “They realize hybrids are a simple way to make an important difference in curtailing foreign-oil dependence.”

Hybrid vehicles are powered by internal combustion engines but also are equipped with electric motors to assist with power and with batteries that are recharged while driving. They are more fuel efficient than traditional models, but typically cost $3,000 to $4,000 more.

Anthony Pratt, an analyst with J.D. Power and Associates, has said that premium will limit sales of hybrids to less than 5 percent of the U.S. market by 2011.

But Press is more bullish on the future of hybrids, saying the price will go down as more hybrids are produced. R.L. Polk analyst Lonnie Miller has said hybrids could make up 35 percent of the U.S. market by 2015 as long as automakers are committed to them.

Toyota has been far ahead of the Big Three in production of hybrids. Ford Motor Co. has two hybrid vehicles on the market, but General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG are still developing hybrids.

But Press said Toyota isn’t gloating and expects fierce competition for the coming influx of Generation Y car buyers. Press said 20 million people in the United States will be reaching driving age in the next five years.

“Make no mistake about it: Detroit automakers are rebuilding and preparing for a new era of prosperity,” Press said. “They will force all of us to get up on our toes.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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