Hans Greimel
Hans Greimel
Asia Editor, Tokyo

This Toyota Group hybrid has small sales, huge size

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TOKYO -- While the sales tally for these Toyota Group hybrids aren't huge, the vehicles themselves are big. Really big.

In fact, given they are light, medium and heavy-duty trucks, it's perhaps surprising that Hino Motors Ltd. sold any at all.

Hybrids are still a niche among passenger cars, but Toyota's truckmaking unit has carved a space in commercial vehicles too.

Indeed, Hino said Tuesday that it had sold 10,028 hybrid trucks in total since introducing its first hybrid in 1991.

The total includes 49 medium-duty hybrid trucks sold in the United States, where Hino began selling its 19,500-pound 195h truck in November 2012. Initial sales there have been limited to California, but it will be available in all states by June.

Hino engineers say they have developed the hybrid drivetrain independently of their colleagues at Toyota, who made the Prius the world's best-selling gasoline-electric car. Unlike the Prius, Hino pares its electric motor to a diesel engine.

As of May 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. notched cumulative hybrid vehicles sales of 4 million units, since launching its first hybrid in 1997, a hybrid bus called the Coaster Hybrid EV.

The Prius was introduced later the same year. Since then, Toyota has sold more than 2.63 million units of that nameplate.

Aside from Japan, Hino sells hybrid trucks in six other countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia.

Other brands make hybrid trucks, including Japanese rival Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp. But Hino says it's the first maker to sell more than 10,000 hybrid trucks.

"You may think 10,000 is very small," Hino spokesman Tetsuo Kitagawa says. "Yes, it's a small number compared to mass produced hybrid cars like Toyota Prius. But it's a great milestone for the commercial vehicle segment."

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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