Global auto major Toyota Motor Corp plans to introduce its hybrid sedan Prius in India as an answer to soaring fuel prices and growing concerns over emissions, a top official at its Indian joint venture said. “We are preparing to bring Prius into the Indian market though we have not set any timeline yet,” Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd vice-chairman Vikram Kirloskar told in an interview.
“In the run-up, we have to develop skills to service it and make spare parts available across the country,” 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 emitting vehicle in Britain.
Kirloskar described Prius as a “great car” but admitted it was “expensive upfront”.
“In the long-run, it is economical, with higher mileage and lower maintenance cost. We are confident of its acceptability in the Indian market as it runs both on electricity and fuel.”
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 either petrol and electric power.
“We are aware that Honda is launching its hybrid variant in the Indian market soon despite high import tariff. We can also do it with due preparation. As I said earlier, we have to gear up to service such a premium car by training our personnel and stocking enough spare parts with the dealer network,” Kirloskar said.
As the first commercially mass-produced gas-electric hybrid, one million Prius vehicles were sold by April worldwide, including 592,000 units in the US and 315,000 units in Japan.
“Though we entered the Indian market over a decade ago, we chose to be in niche and premium segments. As a marketing strategy, we first introduced Qualis, which was a run-away success in the multi-utility segment,” Kirloskar said. “We launched Innova by discontinuing Qualis and yet maintained market leadership in the segment. In the second-hand or used car market, Toyota brands commands highest price even today because of their value and durability,” he said.
Denying that Toyota “missed the bus” or lost market space to global rivals such as Honda, Hyundai, Suzuki, Ford and General Motors by not being present across segments in India, especially in the dominant compact segment, Kirloskar said there was enough room to grow in a developing country where the automobile industry was maturing.
In the passenger car segment, the combined installed capacity of Indian automobile sector is about two mn as against Toyota’s annual worldwide capacity of 10 mn units.
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