Toyota to launch China-made Corolla, Levin hybrids in 2015

BEIJING Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:14am EDT

A man uses a mobile phone at a showroom of Toyota Motor in Beijing July 2, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

A man uses a mobile phone at a showroom of Toyota Motor in Beijing July 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) plans to make and sell hybrid versions of its Corolla and Levin sedans in China next year, fitting them with locally-made components, in its first bid to entirely manufacture gas-electric hybrids outside Japan.

The backdrop to Toyota's plans are efforts by foreign and domestic automakers to kick-start sales of hybrid cars in China, as the world's largest auto market warms to the vehicles in its efforts to cut pollution and reliance on fossil fuels.

Toyota, an industry leader in hybrid vehicles, already makes the Prius and Camry hybrids in China, but has to import key parts, such as hybrid systems, making it tough to generate volume due to high import tariffs.

In 2015, the Corolla and Levin hybrid sedans will carry made-in-China batteries, hybrid transaxles and inverters, Executive Vice President Yasumori Ihara, said at the Auto China car show in Beijing on Sunday.

Ihara, who oversees Toyota's emerging markets business, also said the world's largest carmaker aimed to double auto sales in China to around 2 million vehicles a year, but gave no time frame for the target.

Toyota, playing catchup to rivals such as Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE, General Motors (GM.N), Hyundai and Nissan Motor Co. (7201.T) in China, aims to become the third best-selling carmaker in China and surpass Nissan in the future, he said.

To do so, Toyota will introduce 15 new models in the country by end-2017, he said. China now accounts for about 10 percent of Toyota's global sales.

In 2013, Toyota sold 917,000 vehicles in China, up 9 percent from a year earlier, recovering from a sales plunge after September 2012 due to a diplomatic row between Japan and China over a set of isles. Its market share was at around 5 percent.

It sold around 20,400 hybrid vehicles in China in 2013, up from just 7,900 in 2012.

If Toyota hits its sales target of 1.1 million vehicles or more this year, it would be meeting the objective of selling 1 million vehicles a year in China four years later than initially planned.

Toyota runs joint ventures in China with China FAW Group Corp and Guangzhou Automobile Group (601238.SS) (2238.HK).

(Editing by Lee Chyen Yee and Clarence Fernandez)

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