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Thai take-away for Toyota Prius

Flicking the switch: Toyota's Prius is about to go in production in Thailand.

Toyota confirms Prius production in Thailand, but not for Oz – yet

Toyota logo26 Oct 2010

TOYOTA’S hybrid icon, the Prius, is the latest model from the Japanese giant to be confirmed for production in Thailand.

However, at least for now, Toyota Australia says it has no plans to switch the production source of our Prius from Japan to Australia’s closer Asian neighbour, with which Australia has a free trade agreement.

Toyota Motor Corporation last week announced that, “as part of its effort to further popularise hybrid vehicles worldwide”, it will start producing the current Prius at Toyota Motor Thailand’s Gateway Plant from late November.

Thai production of the Prius, which last month notched up two million global sales since it was launched in Japan in 1997, follows production of the Camry Hybrid in Thailand – and Australia – from last year.

As we’ve reported, Toyota is also considering sourcing Australia’s Yaris and Corolla from Thailand, where almost all of Australia’s Japanese-brand one-tonne utilities (including the Toyota HiLux and all-new Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger from mid-2011) are built and where most of Honda’s model range has been produced for some time.

Ford and Mazda both shifted production of Australia’s Fiesta and Mazda2 to Thailand earlier this year, resulting in better value for Australian consumers, while a new Suzuki plant in Thailand could produce Swift and Splash models for Australia from 2012.

8 center imageFrom top: Toyota Prius, Toyota's Gateway plant in Thailand and Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Nissan’s move to source Australia’s version of the all-new Micra – due on sale here next month – from Thailand will leave Toyota’s Yaris, Mitsubishi’s Colt and the Swift as the only made-in-Japan light-cars sold in Australia.

Ford is expected to switch production of its third-generation Focus – due on sale here in the third quarter of next year – from Germany to a new factory in Thailand from 2012.

Mazda is also considering switching Mazda3 production from Japan to Thailand. Currently, the Corolla, Mazda3, Suzuki SX4 and Mitsubishi Lancer are the only small-cars to come to Australia from Japan.

Toyota Motor Corporation announced on October 21 that its Gateway plant 110km south-east of Bangkok would produce the Prius alongside the Camry, Corolla, Yaris, Vios and Wish by the end of next month.

Toyota builds its HiLux at both the Samrong plant 15km south of Bangkok and the Ban Pho plant 65km south-east of Bangkok.

Toyota Motor Thailand was established in 1962 and last year produced 435,000 vehicles.

Now into its third generation, the world’s first mass-production petrol-electric vehicle is sold in more than 70 markets globally, with most sales going to North America (939,100), followed by Japan (826,900) and Europe (206,100).

A record 400,000 Prius cars were sold around the world last year, helping Toyota record more than 2.8 million hybrid vehicles sales globally.

Although more than 16,000 examples of the Prius have been sold here since its local launch in October 2001, sales of the MkIII Prius are almost 39 per cent down from 2250 to September last year to 1375 units this year in Australia.

Australia’s Prius was involved in a global recall in February, when 2378 cars were recalled locally to recalibrate ABS tuning. Toyota has recalled 10.8 million vehicles globally since late last year to fix faulty floor mats, sticking accelerator pedals and sub-standard ABS braking systems.

Toyota Australia is involved in a global field trial that should lead to a plug-in version of the Prius being sold here by 2012, but says it has no plans to introduce Europe’s Auris HSD (Corolla Hybrid) locally.

When it launched the MkIII Prius here in July 2009, Toyota Australia said it and the subsequent Camry Hybrid would be the first two of at least eight new hybrid models to be launched locally over the next four years.

The next hybrid model from the world’s largest car-maker is likely to be a petrol-electric version of its third-generation Yaris due on sale here within 12 months, followed by an SUV version of the Prius, as part of a promise made last month to add six new hybrid models globally by 2012.

Other new hybrids to come to Australia by mid-2013 from Toyota, which aims to sell one million hybrid vehicles annually by “as early as possible in the 2010s” and has committed to releasing a hybrid version of every model by 2020, should include replacements for the current Lexus GS450h and LS600hL sedans, and the hybrid version of the mid-size Kluger SUV already sold in the US.

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