Toyota Says Hybrids Can Be Inexpensive to Manufacture

Defying conventional wisdom, Toyota unveiled its new hybrid-car production site in Toyota City, Japan, yesterday and sent a clear message to other automakers: Gas-electric hybrids can be manufactured inexpensively. Such cars have traditionally been thought of as too costly to be practical, and Toyota and Honda, the only two companies to mass-produce them, were suspected by other manufacturers of selling the cars at a loss. Now, though, Toyota has significantly reduced the cost of making its hybrid Prius by producing it on the same assembly line used to make conventional sedans. (One Prius rolls off the line every minute, compared to every eight or 10 minutes in the past.) By Sept. 24, more than 10,000 new-model Priuses had been ordered in the U.S., even though the cars won’t go on sale in the country until later this month.