TOKYO, July 17 – Japan\’s Toyota Motor said on Friday that it would start making a hybrid version of its Auris hatchback in Britain next year, giving a much-needed boost to the country\’s ailing auto industry.
Toyota, the world\’s largest automaker, said the move aimed to harness growing global demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.
The cars — Toyota\’s first hybrids built in Europe — will be produced at plants in Deeside and Burnaston in central Britain, where the non-hybrid Auris is already built.
The announcement offers a ray of hope for the British economy, which has been badly hit by the global economic downturn.
Automakers like Nissan have announced job cuts at their production sites in Britain and others like Jaguar Land Rover have brought in shorter hours and pay freezes.
Toyota said it had sold more than 37,000 Auris cars in Europe since the model was introduced two years ago. They are also produced at plants in Turkey.
The company is betting on the popularity of gas-electric cars to drive a recovery from its first ever annual loss.
Toyota\’s revamped Prius hybrid has been the top-selling car in Japan for the past two months, in part due to government tax incentives.