TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp plans to begin building and selling a hybrid version of its Camry sedan in China in 2010 in anticipation of growing demand for environmentally friendly vehicles, the Nikkei business daily reported on Tuesday.
Toyota, which leads the auto industry in gasoline-electric hybrid technology, is rapidly ramping up production of the fuel-efficient vehicles to meet growing demand as consumers look to save cash at the pump amid record-high fuel prices.
The company’s latest move comes as the Chinese government, which recently boosted gasoline prices, considers giving preferential tax treatment to eco-friendly cars, the paper said.
A Toyota spokesman declined to comment on the report. Its shares gained 1.2 percent to 5,070 yen as of 0412 GMT, despite a rating cut by Nomura Securities to “reduce” from “neutral”.
The newspaper said Toyota plans to manufacture 10,000 cars per year in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong as part of its joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co.
It said Toyota will first produce the gasoline-powered Camry at the Guangzhou plant’s second line in 2009, and will add the hybrid version the following year.
The company has been assembling the hybrid-only Prius cars in China, but the number has been small. Of the 430,000 hybrid vehicles Toyota built last year, only 320 were produced there.
In June, Toyota said it will start assembling Camry hybrid cars in Thailand and Australia over the next two years, adding to the current overseas production bases of China and the United States.
But Takeshi Uchiyamada, executive vice president in charge of manufacturing at Toyota, later told Reuters in an interview that the company will continue to build most of its hybrid cars in Japan due to the difficulty of making key components abroad.
Reporting by Sachi Izumi and Phil Wahba; Editing by Michael Watson and Chris Gallagher