Toyota to release new medium-sized SAI hybrid within the year

Posted: August 21, 2009 in Toyota

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to release within this year a new medium-sized hybrid sedan, the SAI, that is bigger than the current best-selling Prius as it seeks to expand its lineup of electric-gas hybrids, sources familiar with the matter said Friday.

The SAI will be positioned as a Toyota brand-version of the luxury Lexus HS250h hybrid sedan released in mid-July. It will have the same basic structure but different exterior and interior designs, the sources said.

”The drive will feel lighter,” a person familiar with the development said.

The sources said the SAI’s starting price is expected to fall between the HS250h’s 3.95 million yen and the new Prius’ 2.05 million yen.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda has said that the automaker will focus on diversifying its hybrid products, especially with the Prius and the new hybrid-only Lexus sedan receiving robust orders on the back of recent government subsidies and tax breaks for energy-saving cars.

Toyota also plans to release a cheaper compact hybrid based on its Vitz model with better fuel efficiency than the new Prius and a minivan-type hybrid as early as in 2011.

But Toyota will need to reinforce its battery production capacity with the delivery of both the Prius and the HS250h falling far behind the booming orders, auto industry observers said.

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