Hybrid Price War Charges Up in Japan

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to develop a new low-price hybrid car aimed at undercutting rival Honda Motor Co.'s Insight, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday.

The new gasoline-electric car will sell at below $20,510 as early as 2011 in Japan, the Nikkei said, escalating price competition in hybrid cars.Honda's Insight hatchback, launched in Japan last month at $19,200, logged orders of 18,000 units in its first month, more than three times its monthly sales target of 5,000 units.

Toyota plans to price its new model at about 20 percent to 30 percent cheaper than its current Prius hybrid, which starts at $23,700, by modifying Prius parts, the Nikkei said.

The new hybrid will be a subcompact with an engine smaller than the Prius' 1.5-liter engine, and sales may expand overseas, it said.Toyota declined to comment.

Toyota plans to start sales of a new Prius model in May with a 1.8-liter engine, with prices starting at $20,850 yen to match Honda's Insight.

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