Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Toyota Motor Corporation and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. declare to build two new battery plants for hybrid cars

On May 27th, Japan’s top car maker, Toyota Motor Corporation (TYO: 7203) announced to build a third battery plant with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (TYO:6752) In the face of the rising demand of hybrid vehicles, Toyota decided to increase its battery production. The batteries are used to drive the electric motors in the hybrid vehicles.

Toyota and Matsushita joint venture Panasonic EV Energy Co. will spend $289 million (291 million according to IHT) to build the battery plant which will be situated at Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan. The company will start its operation by 2010 and it will produce 200,000 units of nickel-metal hydride batteries per year.

On May 23rd, the two companies announced to build their second battery plant in Shizuoka Prefecture in Tokyo. The plant will cost $194 million. Bloomberg reports:

The new plants will make nickel-hydride batteries to help Toyota meet its goal of selling 1 million hybrid cars including the Prius annually in the early part of next decade. Drivers are opting for cars that use less gasoline after the price of oil has more than doubled in the past year.

``Toyota is way ahead of everyone else in hybrids,'' said Edwin Merner, president of Tokyo-based Atlantis Investment Research Corp., which manages $2 billion in assets. ``Hybrid cars are in short supply and demand is increasing. If they don't exploit this advantage, they may lose market share.''

The factory in Miyagi will start production in 2010 and will be able to make 200,000 batteries annually when it reaches full operation.

Despite high price tag and comparatively lower sales, Toyota Prius is the environmental champion of Toyota and the most sold hybrid car in the USA. Since its inception in 1997 till April 2008, Toyota sold 1.03 million hybrid cars. Of the total sales, North America accounted for 58% and Japan 31%.

Related articles:
International Herald Tribune