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Toyota sees 40% jump in '07 global hybrid sales

Toyota Motor Corp. said on Wednesday it is aiming for a 40% jump in its global sales of gas-electric hybrid vehicles to 430,000 units this year.

Japan's top auto maker said it also aims to boost domestic production of Prius hybrid cars by 40% to 280,000 units. In 2006, Toyota's hybrid sales rose 33% from a year earlier to 312,500 units. Hybrids, particularly Toyota's Prius, have gained in popularity among environmentally conscious Americans, in part due to high gasoline prices. Accounting for about 1% of new car sales in the United States, a hybrid couples a traditional internal combustion engine with a battery to allow for lower gasoline use. Toyota has forecast its group - including Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu Motor Co. - will sell 9.34 million vehicles in 2007, up 6% from an estimated 8.80 million units last year. Toyota last November formed an equity tie-up with truck maker Isuzu Motors Ltd. in a bid to catch up in clean diesel, a rival technology to its signature hybrid system. In 2005, it took a stake in Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., partly as a way to quickly add production capacity in North America. (Reuters)