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Toyota Focuses on Hybrids

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Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Free Report) plans to unveil 21 gas-electric hybrid models by 2015, most of them having a similarity with its widely acclaimed Prius. As many as 14 vehicles among these hybrids will be all new.

This apart, Toyota plans to launch a fuel cell vehicle, which runs on hydrogen to produce electricity, by 2015. It also plans to launch an electric compact car eQ, based on its iQ model, in December this year in order to meet the growing demand for fuel efficient and environment-friendly vehicles.

However, Toyota will launch eQ (iQ EV in the U.S.) in limited numbers due to a conservative view on the global hybrid vehicles market. The company plans to sell about 100 units of battery-powered eQ vehicles in the U.S. and Japan. The vehicles will be priced at ¥3.6 million ($45,000) and have a limited cruise range of 100 kilometers (62 miles).

Toyota occupied the leading spot in hybrid offerings after introducing Prius in 1997. Since then, the automaker sold more than 3.5 million hybrid vehicles. In May last year, Toyota introduced Prius Alpha hatchback wagon Prius V (5-seater) in Japan, which is derived from the third generation Prius model.

In late 2011, Toyota signed a memorandum of understanding with Ford on the equal product development collaboration in order to manufacture a gas-electric hybrid engine for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). It has also partnered with Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA - Free Report) to collaborate on producing electric vehicles based on its small SUV RAV4, which will go on sale this month.

Toyota is gearing up for new launches in order to regain its leading position in the U.S. and abroad after getting battered by the global economic crisis, earthquake in Japan, floods in Thailand and a series of embarrassing recalls.

The company lost its No.1 position to General Motors (GM - Free Report) and Ford Motor Co. (F - Free Report) in terms of sales volumes in the U.S. As a result, the company plans to increase its dependence on the non-U.S. markets, especially the high growth emerging markets.

It aims to generate 50% of global sales from the emerging markets by 2015, up from 45% presently. These would also help the automaker face burgeoning automakers in the markets such as Korea’s Hyundai Motor and Germany’s Volkswagen AG (VLKAY - Free Report) .

The company also faces strong competition from hybrid vehicles, offered by other major automakers. They include GM Volt and Nissan Motor Co.’s (NSANY - Free Report) Leaf. It also needs to entice buyers in high-growth emerging markets, who are not yet ready to buy expensive and complex vehicles such as hybrids.

Toyota, a Zacks #2 Rank (Buy) company showed marked recovery in the first quarter of its fiscal year ending March 31, 2013 by posting a significant ¥91.31 increase in earnings to ¥91.68 per share ($1.14) due to strong demand for its vehicles and positive impact of cost reduction measures. However, the company’s profits failed to meet the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.93 per share during the quarter. Total profit surged ¥289.19 billion to ¥290.35 billion ($3.62 billion) from ¥1.16 billion a year ago.

Consolidated revenues soared 60% to ¥5.50 trillion ($68.66 billion) in the quarter. Unit sales increased 86% to 2.27 million vehicles during the quarter led by higher sales in all the regions including Japan (97%), North America (140%), Europe (20%) and Asia (61%), and Other reporting regions (83%).

Operating income increased by ¥461.10 billion to ¥353.14 billion ($4.41 billion) from a loss of ¥107.96 billion in the year-ago quarter. Favorable effects from marketing activities of ¥440.0 billion ($5.49 billion) and cost reduction efforts of ¥70.0 billion ($8.74 billion) boosted operating income, partially offset by negative effects from currency fluctuations of ¥40.0 billion ($499.2 million).

For fiscal 2013 ending March 31, 2013, Toyota projected consolidated vehicles sales of 8.80 million units, up 100 thousand units from the prior guidance. However, the company reiterated its guidance for consolidated revenues of ¥22.00 trillion (up 18.4% from fiscal 2012), operating income of ¥1.00 trillion (181.2%) and profits of ¥760.0 billion (168.0%) for the fiscal year.

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