* Aims to sell 36,000 new Sai hybrid sedans a year in Japan
* Launches Prius, Camry hybrids in S.Korea, taking on Hyundai
(Recasts, adds South Korea model launches)
By Chang-Ran Kim and Cheon Jong-woo
TOKYO/SEOUL, Oct 20 Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) is
ramping up its push on gasoline-electric hybrids, launching a new
model in Japan and taking on up-and-coming competitor Hyundai
Motor Co (005380.KS) in its Korean home market with its flagship
Toyota said on Tuesday it aims to sell 36,000 units a year of
its new Sai hybrid sedan in Japan, taking another step towards
its goal of selling 1 million hybrid vehicles annually worldwide
soon after 2010.
The Sai sedan is the second hybrid-only model under the
Toyota brand after the Prius, and is a repackaged version of the
Lexus HS250h hybrid, which went on sale in June.
Toyota also on Tuesday launched its brand in South Korea, a
market dominated by Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors Co
(000270.KS), first with the Prius and Camry hybrids, as well as
the RAV4 sports utility vehicle and non-hybrid version of the
Camry, its most popular sedan.
Hyundai has been grabbing market share globally from Toyota
and other major automakers, winning over customers with its line
of cheap, fuel efficient models and catchy marketing campaigns.
In July, Hyundai unveiled its first hybrid car, which uses
liquefied petroleum gas, in the South Korean market and is due to
launch its first gasoline-electric hybrid, a version of the
flagship Sonata, in the latter half of 2010.
Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, is miles ahead of
competitors in the fast-growing hybrid field, which has enjoyed
tailwinds especially in Japan thanks to generous subsidies and
reduced taxes on cleaner cars.
It expects to sell 500,000 to 600,000 hybrid vehicles
globally this year, while facing a short-term battery supply
bottleneck for anything further.
"The introduction of the Toyota brand into South Korea is
aimed to meet the diversifying needs of consumers in this growing
market," Toyota Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo told a
"We intend to make every effort to contribute to South Korean
society and earn a loyal following."
Toyota expects to sell a combined 500 vehicles per month
initially, aiming to raise that to a still-modest 700 units
beginning in 2010.
The Sai, which will go on sale in Japan on Dec. 7, starts at
3.38 million yen ($37,290), compared with the Lexus HS250h's
starting price of 3.96 million yen.
The Sai has a listed mileage of 23 km/litre (54 mpg), or
twice that of a comparable gasoline car, chief engineer Shigeru
Nakagawa told a news conference.
Toyota said it had no plans to export the Sai, which will be
built by unit Toyota Motor Kyushu in southern Japan.
Toyota said the Sai concept was derived from a Japanese
character meaning talent and coloration.
(Editing by Lincoln Feast)