Toyota Motor Corp. is preparing a $1 billion marketing blitz to juice U.S. sales in the fourth quarter and plans to expand its line of gas-electric hybrid models under the Prius name, people briefed on the plans said.

The strategy, aimed at revitalizing its key North American operations, was laid out by Toyota President Akio Toyoda and his top U.S. lieutenants at a meeting in Las Vegas with the company's U.S. dealers. ~ ~

The world's largest auto maker needs to turn around its North American business after acknowledging it expects to report a loss in its current fiscal year, which would be its second annual deficit in a row.

Toyota executives vowed to go "pedal to the metal" in the fourth quarter, using financial strength to drive sales as the U.S. economy appears to be recovering, these people said.

The $1 billion marketing and advertising plan is 30% to 40% more than Toyota typically spends in the quarter, said a person familiar with the company's operations. It includes subsidizing leases and loan rates, offering other customer incentives and helping pay for dealer ads.

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