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$4000 premium tipped for Camry Hybrid

Lean local: Toyota will show the Camry Hybrid concept at the Melbourne show.

Local Camry Hybrid to start production in December and go on sale in early 2010

24 Feb 2009

TOYOTA’S new Australian-made Camry Hybrid is likely to command a price premium of about $4000 over the regular petrol model when it goes on sale early next year.

Toyota also revealed it would import a plug-in version of the Prius for testing this year.

Presenting a concept version of the Camry Hybrid at a function in Melbourne this week, Toyota Australia sales and marketing executive director David Buttner indicated the green Camry would likely demand a premium of around $4000 over the regular petrol model.

Asked about the price difference between the regular Camry and the hybrid version in the US and whether it was equal to $4000 (Australian), Mr Buttner replied: “Roughly, yes and I think that is an appropriate level.

“Naturally, there will always be a premium for this kind of technology until it becomes mass production technology.”

Toyota Australia indicated it was determined to keep the Camry Hybrid affordable.

“We are very keen to continue the Camry story in terms of value for money, and we believe we can bring this product to market at a price that will allow us to sell more than 10,000 vehicles,” he said.

8 center imageMr Buttner would not further discuss the pricing of the first hybrid to be produced in Australia, but did say the company was aiming to position the mid-sized sedan below the third-generation Prius to be released in the third quarter of this year.

Toyota will not discuss how much the new Prius will cost, but it is widely expected the price will not vary too much from the existing model at $37,400.

A different Toyota source confirmed the proposed lean pricing of the Camry Hybrid was made possible by the assistance of both the Federal and Victorian governments, estimated to total around $50 million.

“That allows us to maintain the premium over the standard model even though we are producing a lot less than they are in the US,” said the source.

Toyota sold 46,272 Camry Hybrids in the US last year, compared to Toyota Australia’s goal of 10,000 a year.

When asked if Toyota Australia hoped to stick to its production target of 10,000 Camry Hybrids a year despite the deteriorating economic climate, Mr Buttner said: “We are still very focused on 10,000. In fact, we want to stretch it beyond 10,000.”

Mr Buttner said Toyota Australia was keen to attract more private buyers to the hybrid version of the Camry, which is a traditional fleet favourite.

“The mix is going to be interesting. We believe there is going to be a great opportunity with this vehicle for the private buyer,” he said.

“If you look at Camry now, the private buyer rate is running at about 15 per cent, and we want to grow that between 8 per cent and 10 per cent, so we’d like to get a quarter of these vehicles sold to private buyers.”

Toyota is planning to launch the local Camry Hybrid early next year, but Mr Buttner revealed the plant was already preparing for it.

“The plant is gearing up for the pre production phase,” he said. “We will have the first models off the line in December, and we are preparing for a launch in the first quarter of 2010.”

The concept car to be presented at the Melbourne International Motor Show, called the Hybrid Camry Concept Vehicle, features some design elements that will be used for the production vehicle and others that are there for show.

A special grille designed to mimic asymmetrical shapes of nature, blue lights and a pearlescent white paint scheme with shades of blue are unlikely to make it on to the production model, but some other elements such as aerodynamic bumpers and body skirts are more likely to see the light of day. Some of those design elements will be shaped by Toyota Style Australia and others by Toyota design houses overseas.

While most of the car will be produced in Australia, the engine and gearbox will be imported.

Mr Buttner said he hoped Toyota Australia could produce more of the model locally after it had proven itself.

“You have got to look at any investment in the automotive world. It is based on your production and how many you build and then you get the economies of scale based on that production,” he said.

“So in the first instance, while we are establishing product in Australia, there will be a significant import content, both of the engine and transmission, but over time there is no reason why, with Toyota Style Australia here and Toyota Technical Centre out at Monash University, we are always striving to do things locally.

“Toyota’s fundamental philosophy globally is that you produce the parts in the country that you build the car and over time it will be our long-term intent, but in terms of a time frame I can’t comment.”

Toyota Australia has made no comments on the expected fuel consumption of the Camry Hybrid, saying it would be foolish to speculate until a production version was subjected to the full ADR fuel-testing regime.

The Camry Hybrid is a petrol-electric hybrid that uses both a traditional engine and electric motor, but several carmakers are already toying with models that run purely on electric motor power and must be plugged in to the grid to recharge.

Toyota’s plug-in Prius, which is still a prototype, will be used to gauge demand for the fledgling technology.

Mitsubishi will also import an electric vehicle, the iMiEV, to Australia this year to test public and fleet response.

While Toyota will test demand for future electric models later this year, it will use its stand at the Melbourne show to present the third-generation Prius.

It hopes the new model, which uses a larger 1.8-litre petrol engine and more powerful electric motor will be able to record an official fuel economy average of just 4L/100km or less when it goes on sale.

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