Toyota Motor Corp. is producing only 6,000 units monthly of its Prius C small hybrid for North America due to the supply constraints and the increasing demand in Japan. However, more automobiles should be on their way in the middle of the year. The vehicle was launched for sale in Japan on December 26 as the Aqua. It arrives in U.S. showrooms this month.
However, an initial backlog of 120,000 orders for Japan has brought U.S. allocation at risk. In addition, the yen's exchange rate versus the dollar has crimped profits on vehicles manufactured in Japan. It is also pushing Toyota to make domestic sales a priority.
The vehicle is made in an Iwate plant in Japan. This facility is operated by Kanto Auto Works Ltd., the assembly affiliate of Toyota. It had exported around 60% of its output in 2007, prior to the yen's four-year rise versus the dollar.
Currently, it exports only 30% of its production, according to executives. Kanto President Tetsuo Hattori has disclosed during a plant tour that the company is working on tweaks to maximize the pint-sized Prius.
The plant managers are pushing through efficiencies which should boost overall capacity at the facility when combined, he stated. In addition, production of the Ractis -- one of the facility's other models -- will change gradually to the Higashifuji assembly facility of Kanto in the west of Tokyo beginning in May.
Hattori disclosed that the extra capacity they gain from the shift will be placed toward Prius C or Aqua. He did not say the amount of extra capacity that could be achieved. The Iwate facility produces around 30,000 units of the Prius C each month for a yearly rate of 360,000 units. This is an increase from an original target of 240,000 units. Also, it comprises 80% of the facility's output. Only 20% of the units are allocated for export.