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Toyota to sell plug-in hybrid in US, Europe, Japan targeting 2012

Toyota is planning to sell a plug-in hybrid car in the U.S., Japan and Europe in 2012, targeting sales of 50,000 vehicles a year at 3 million yen ($36,000) each without subsidies, as the automaker strengthens its green lineup to keep pace with growing competition.

Toyota Motor Corp. Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada said Thursday that Toyota is also planning to sell an electric vehicle in 2012 and not just in the U.S. as it had said before, but in Japan and Europe too. Sales in China are also being considered, he told reporters.

But he said electric vehicles will be mainly for short commutes for some time and gasoline-electric hybrids will remain the standard for green cars because drivers won’t have to worry about running out of electricity on the road.

His comments show how Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, is banking on hybrids, which switch between a gasoline engine and an electric motor, after the success of its top-selling Prius hybrid.

A plug-in hybrid is cleaner than a regular hybrid because it travels longer as a zero-emission electric vehicle.

"Toyota is working on developing hybrid technology as the core technology of the future," Uchiyamada said at a Tokyo showroom.

He was at pains to show Toyota isn’t lagging in electric car technology, although acknowledged it had fallen behind Japanese rivals Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in bringing them to market.

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