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January 20, 1998


Toyota to use its latest Hybrid engine in Indian models

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Kevin James in New Delhi

The Toyota Motor Corporation, which is setting up a joint venture car project in India with the Kirloskar Group, plans to fit its latest Hybrid engine in the family-size multipurpose vehicle that the company plans to launch in the Indian market.

The Hybrid engine, developed by Toyota, has been thoroughly tested and is known to give double the fuel efficiency compared to other conventional cars under test conditions in Japan. It is a gasoline engine with an electric motor. The company has already fitted the new engine in Prius, its new car model.

According to the current plans. Toyota will introduced this engine in its utility vehicle which is slated for launch in India in 1999. The prototype of this vehicle will be ready by March 1998. The prototype, however, will be fitted with a diesel engine.

According to a senior Toyota official, besides its high efficiency, the new engine is also environment friendly as it emits only half the quantity of carbon dioxide compared to conventional cars. It also reduces the emission of other gases to only one-tenth the Japanese standards.

The Toyota official said the company did not plan on introducing any other vehicle in the Indian market as yet. Any vehicle that will be introduced in India in the future will be specially designed for the country, he added.

The Japanese auto major's Indian subsidiary, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Limited, will finance the entire Rs 7 billion project entirely through equity. The joint venture project envisages a production of 20,000 vehicles in its very first year.

General Motors, Honda to import cars

General Motors India is working on the possibility of importing completely-built units of its range of cars of India. The company plans to do so on behalf of its dealers, who in turn say they have been requested by customers for other models from the company.

According to a senior official of the company, the begin with, GM plan to import the models of Corsa, Vectra and Frontaira. Later on, other models might follow. But the company does not hope to sell more than 1000 such cars in India through this route.

As per the plans currently being chalked out by the company, it will appoint a new network of fleet sales personnel who will take care of the GM India dealers demand for other car models from the company. GM currently manufacturers only the Opel Astra in India.

Significantly, GM Japanese rival Honda Motors also plans to take to the import route to market its range of cars other than what it plans to manufacture in India. Honda has a joint venture with the Sidharth Sriram promoted Siel.

However, unlike GM, Honda will not directly control the import of its completely-built units. Instead, it will be the company's exclusive authorised dealers who will be importing the cars to India. The car that is immediately expected to be imported through this route is its extremely popular Honda Accord.

Market experts say that more foreign auto majors are expected to join the bandwagon of importing completely-built units. This will not only help them test the Indian market for their various models, but save them from getting stuck with their investments in the case their models fail to make it in the highly-competitive Indian market.

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