Toyota Hybrid X Concept
Toyota's margins on hybrid vehicles to reach parity with gasoline-only vehicles by 2010.

Toyota is basking in the limelight as it sees the sales of its hybrid vehicles take off worldwide. The company introduced the world first's modern gasoline-electric Prius in Japan in 1997. It took three years for that first generation vehicle to make it over to the United States, but it has been a relative hit here ever since. Since then, Toyota has expanded its hybrid vehicle lineup to include the Highlander Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, Lexus RX 400h, Lexus GS 450h and Lexus LS 600h L.

Toyota produced roughly 200,000 Prius hybrids during 2006 -- 106,971 of which ended up in the hands of American drivers. A total of 313,000 Toyota hybrids were sold worldwide in 2006 and the company is projected to sell 430,000 worldwide in 2007. To date, the company has sold 998,900 hybrids worldwide (as of April 2007).

Toyota announced last week that it is making tremendous gains in reducing the cost of its Hybrid Synergy Drive system. By the year 2010, Toyota expects that the margins it receives on the sale of hybrids to be at parity with conventional internal combustion engines (ICEs). By 2020, every Toyota automobile will feature the Hybrid Synergy Drive according to Masatami Takimoto, executive VP of powertrain development for Toyota.

In the immediate future, however, Toyota is working hard on its next generation Prius hybrid. The company showcased its Hybrid X concept at the 2007 Geneva Auto Show. While the vehicle is dolled up with show car "bling" like 20" wheels, suicide doors, and outlandish interior, some features that are likely to reach production include LED exterior/interior lighting, lithium-ion battery technology and an extensive use of lightweight materials to keep weight down.

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