The Toyota Prius is the world's most popular hybrid vehicle, but it may take domestic production capabilities for the model to achieve a high level of popularity in China. Japan-based Toyota is aiming to produce an increasing percentage of Prius components in China in order to bring down its price there, Bloomberg News reports. Eventually, the goal is to make all Priuses sold in China in that country in order to avoid the steep 25-percent import tariff.
As it is, Toyota sold just 1,400 Prius vehicles in China last year, compared to about 234,000 in the US and 315,000 worldwide. Hindering sales is the fact that the Prius costs about as much as an entry-level Audi in China, where Volkswagen is the country's best-selling automaker. Toyota has been selling the Prius in China for almost a decade but may soon find local sources for the batteries and other hybrid parts for the Prius and Camry Hybrid, Bloomberg says, citing comment from Hiroji Onishi, Toyota's China chief, at the Beijing Auto Show.
Part of the problem is that the Chinese government provides less than $500 worth of subsidies for each hybrid sold, compared to about $9,600 for an electric vehicle. While that subsidy may rise as China municipalities take on the country's growing pollution problems, there's lingering concern over spurring sales of a car that's made by competing Japan.
Toyota starting making some of its Prius vehicles in China in 2005 but halted production on the second-generation version of the hybrid four years later.