Launch of Auris Hybrid Aimed at Making Toyota Europe’s Greenest Automaker

On Monday, Toyota Motor Europe began production of its new Auris hybrid at the automaker’s Burnaston, Derbyshire factory and hopes the new model will help it overtake Fiat as Europe’s most environmentally-friendly automaker.

During a press event to promote the new gas-electric hybrid, Toyota Motor Europe’s environmental affairs director, Willy Tomboy, said, “Toyota definitely wants to become Europe’s greenest automaker.”

Toyota says deliveries of the new Auris hybrid will begin next month. It hopes to sell 14,000 units by year’s end and has set a sales target of 30,000 annual sales beginning in 2011. The new hybrid version will be added to the Auris’ gasoline- and diesel-powered lineup and is expected to account for about 25% of the lines’ total European sales.

Toyota launched the Auris in the European market in 2007 and has sold upwards or 370,000 units.

CO2 emissions for the Auris hybrid measure a mere 89 grams per kilometer. Strong sales of the Auris could allow Toyota to surpass Fiat as the No. 1 lowest emissions automaker in the market. In 2008, CO2 emissions of Toyota models in the European market stood at 144.9 grams per kilometer.  Last year, the Japanese automaker was able to reduce the number to 130.1 grams per kilometer, but still trailed No. 1 ranked Fiat with a fleet-wide CO2 emissions average of 127.8 grams per kilometer.

With the launch of the new Auris model, Toyota will have two gasoline-electric hybrid models in its European lineup.  The Auris, however, is the first hybrid model Toyota has produced specifically for the European market.

Britain’s Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson said, “As part of our low carbon industrial strategy, we set out to make Britain the best place in the world to develop low carbon vehicles. These commitments, backed by the formidable skills of the U.K. automotive workers, enable companies like Toyota to invest with confidence in low carbon car production in the UK. It demonstrates that the UK’s car industry is already making the low carbon transition.”

In a press release, Toyota Motors Europe president and CEO Tadashi Arashima said, “Our decision to produce a full hybrid in the U.K. reflects both our confidence in the quality and commitment of the TMUK workforce and the strength of our long-standing partnership with the U.K. Government. Today’s announcement is positive for Toyota, our U.K. suppliers and the local communities here.”

Volkswagen AG, disputes Toyota’s claim that the Auris will be “the first full hybrid to be built in Europe.” The German automaker says that it began building a full-hybrid version of its Toureg SUV this past April at its Bratislava, Slovakia plant.

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