Toyota Yaris Liftback – Click above for high-res image gallery
Toyota's got hybrids on the brain. Already the undisputed leader in the gas-electric vehicle market, Asahi (via Reuters) reports the Japanese automaker is planning to launch a new compact hybrid based on the next-gen Yaris platform and due to go on sale in Japan for 1.5 million yen ($15,760) by 2011. That bargain-basement price will be made possible by a low-cost version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, used in the current Prius and featuring a downsized four-cylinder engine that may make it even more fuel efficient than its larger sibling.
In addition to production plants in its home market of Japan, the report indicates that Toyota may also assemble the compact hybrid in France for the European market. This news comes just weeks after Toyota officially announced its intentions to build a hybrid version of its Auris hatchback in the United Kingdom. We certainly wouldn't be surprised if Toyota imported either of the new hybrids to the States in light of the success it's seen with the Prius.
It's expected that the new Yaris-based hybrid will go head-to-head with Honda's recently announced Fit Hybrid. While Toyota's interest in hybrid technology is anything but new, the fuel-saving models have just recently earned the top sales spots in Japan and are expected to be increasingly important in over the next few years as the latest round of strict emissions and fuel economy requirements are implemented worldwide.