TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp., the world's No. 2 automaker, said Friday that it had no concrete plans to build hybrid cars in the United States, though it would be a possibility when volumes reached a certain minimum level.
Japanese newspapers reported in their evening editions Friday that Toyota President Fujio Cho said the automaker aimed to begin producing the fuel-efficient gasoline-electric vehicles in the United States around 2006.
"He was speaking purely in theoretical terms and prefaced the comment by saying we had no set plans at present," a Toyota spokesman said.
Cho had made the comments in an interview with Japanese media in San Francisco, where he was attending the 20-year anniversary celebrations of Toyota's joint venture with General Motors, the spokesman said.
Asked how soon Toyota would be able to build hybrids -- now exported from Japan -- in the United States, Cho said it would be possible only when local sales of the Prius sedan reached 50,000 to 100,000 units a year, according to the spokesman.
Hybrid vehicles require high-tech parts, including a special battery, motor and power control unit.
Those parts -- some of which are outsourced -- would also have to be built locally to allow the assembly of hybrid vehicles in the United States, Cho said.
While setting up local production of such parts would take time, demand for the new and improved Prius is already close to the minimum targeted level.
With initial orders far outstripping expectations, Toyota now aims to sell 47,000 Prius cars in the United States this year, up from the original plan of 36,000. The model was launched in mid-October in the country.
Toyota plans to expand its hybrid lineup further, with the Lexus RX400h and Highlander SUVs over the next year.