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Hybrid cars coming to Manila

- Doreen Yu -

The Philippines needs it.

Akira Okabe, senior managing director of Toyota Motor Corp., affirmed the giant car manufacturer’s commitment to bring energy-efficient and environment-friendly vehicles to the Philippines.

While Okabe would not reveal the timetable for the Philippine introduction of Toyota’s hybrids – including the Toyota Prius and the high-end Lexus hybrids – he said developing countries like the Philippines need hybrid vehicles that will meet the country’s growing transport needs as well as environmental demands such as lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Alfred Ty, chairman of Lexus Manila and vice chairman of Toyota Motor Philippines, told The STAR during last Wednesday’s inauguration of Lexus Manila’s new showroom at the Bonifacio Global City they have been working on bringing the hybrid cars to Manila, but there are some considerations that have to be worked out, including the performance of the car in the country’s wet climate and less than ideal road conditions.

“But hopefully within the year, we can do something,” Ty said.

The Prius is currently manufactured in Toyota plants in the US and Japan. Lexus announced at the auto show in Detroit earlier this month that it will roll out its first dedicated hybrid car this summer. Lexus has sold over 157,000 luxury hybrids since the first model was introduced in 2005. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly drives a Lexus hybrid.

Ty pointed out that a hybrid will be more expensive than a conventional car of the same size, since the technology that enables the vehicle to switch from fuel to electricity is much more costly.

“In other countries, governments subsidize the development and use of such technology,” Ty said, thus enabling wider consumer application. No such incentives are in place in the Philippines.

“But there are some proposals to that effect,” Ty added, without going into specifics.

Okabe, who was special guest at the three-day Lexus Manila inauguration, confirmed reports that despite an expected operating loss for the current fiscal year, Toyota is not cutting back on research and development of fuel-efficient and next generation ecological vehicles.

Toyota is the acknowledged leader in green automotive technology, and is reportedly also working on a solar-powered electric car.

Last December, Toyota Motor Corp. president Katsuaki Watanabe announced an expected operating loss of Y150 billion ($1.7 billion) for the current fiscal year ending March 31. It is the first such loss for the company in 70 years, its first since 1938, a year after the company was founded. The loss comes after eight consecutive years of record profits, and underscores the spread of the current economic crisis across the globe.

The push towards ecological vehicles is also seen as an effort to turn around the struggling automotive business.   

Okabe stressed that the development of such green technology will be promoted “much more,” especially for developing countries.

“We cannot kill the earth,” said Okabe, who is also chief of Toyota’s Asia, Oceania and Middle East Operations Group.

ACTOR LEONARDO

AKIRA OKABE

ALFRED TY

BONIFACIO GLOBAL CITY

KATSUAKI WATANABE

LEXUS

LEXUS MANILA

OKABE

TOYOTA

TOYOTA MOTOR CORP

TY

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