Toyota awaits duty relief to bring hybrid Prius to India

February 23rd, 2009 - 11:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Feb 23 (IANS) Global auto major Toyota Motor Corp is eager to bring its fuel-efficient hybrid sedan Prius to the Indian market, but wants the high import tariff (105 percent) on such cars to be lowered, a top official said Monday.
“We are showcasing Prius for the first time in India here though we have no plans to introduce now. We are making a feasibility study of the market and waiting for customer feedback,” Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) managing director Hiroshi Nakagawa told reporters at the 18th International Engineering and Technology Fair (IETF) 2009, here.

“We are also looking for a government initiative as the import duty on the eco-friendly car is much higher here than in other countries,” he added.

The 2008 version of Prius has been adjudged the most fuel-efficient midsize car in the US. Sold in over 40 countries across regions, the hybrid variant has also been rated as the third least carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting vehicle in Britain.

Positioned between Toyota’s Corolla and Camry in the luxury segment, Prius uses an all-electric compressor for cooling. Classified as a super ultra low emission vehicle, the eco-friendly car can be propelled by petrol and/or electric power.

“We are in talks with the government on introducing Prius in India as part of our commitment towards protecting the ecology and contributing our mite for a greener and cleaner environment,” Nakagawa said at the Toyota stall in the trade fair, being held at the Bangalore International Exhibition Convention (BIEC) centre on the outskirts of the city.

As the first commercially mass-produced gas-electric hybrid, Toyota sold about one million Prius vehicles over the last decade, including 592,000 units in the US and 315,000 units in Japan.

With the Pune-based Kirloskar Motors Ltd as joint venture partner, Toyota manufactures multi-utility vehicle Innova and assembles Corolla in the premium segment at its Bidadi plant, about 40 km from India’s IT hub.

“Our plan to roll out a compact car by December 2010 is on schedule. The second plant is under construction,” Nakagawa added.

With an upfront investment of Rs.14 billion (Rs.1,400 crore/$286 million), the company plans to manufacture about 70,000 cars in the first year of operations, 100,000 in the second phase and 150,000 in the third phase.

In calendar year 2008, the company sold 52,800 vehicles, including 10,000 Corollas and about 500 Camrys.

The company is introducing CNG (compressed natural gas) version of Innova in NCR (national capital region), Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Surat by mid-March.

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