Toyota Motor Corp. has set a goal that by 2015, production of the next-generation Prius will begin in the U.S. To achieve this, Toyota would have to source hybrid drivetrain components in North America. Toyota has already started to scout suppliers that can deliver inverters, electric motors and batteries from the U.S. to anticipate this move, according to Koei Saga, Toyota’s senior managing officer who oversees drivetrain r&d.
Toyota expects Prius sales to reach 200,000 units annually in North America by 2015 or even earlier. Its volume is presently on track to surpass this figure for this year. Toyota didn’t say where the next-generation Prius would be produced.
However, it requires a North American production base to offset foreign exchange losses from importing expensive gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles like the Prius from Japan. Local output is justified with a volume of 200,000 units.
This hybrid production milestone will coincide with the introduction of the fourth-generation Prius, the top-selling hybrid in the world.
When interviewed at the Beijing auto show, Saga said that the company hopes that by 2015, it would already be introducing the next-generation Prius so it’s now focused on starting the local output of hybrid units by then.
Saga said that it’s likely that Toyota will produce the next-generation Prius in North America since it will have sufficient volume. In the first quarter of the year, Toyota sold 60,859 units of Prius family vehicles in the U.S., with variants like the Prius V wagon, Prius C compact and plug-in Prius.
Its total grew by 42% from just 42,779 units the past year. Saga said that it’s quite challenging to find local suppliers. Majority of U.S. carmakers get their hybrid drivetrain components from either Japan or South Korea.