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[TOKYO] Toyota Motor Corp will introduce electric vehicles in China from 2020 and also consider selling battery-powered cars developed by its local partners under the Japanese brand.
Japan's biggest carmaker will also launch a pair of compact crossovers, the C-HR and IZOA, from the middle of next year, the company said at the Guangzhou motor show on Friday. A Toyota spokeswoman declined to say whether the C-HR and IZOA would be offered as hybrids, or if batteries and powertrains for the EV (electric vehicles) would be sourced locally.
Selling electric vehicles in China from 2020 will mark the return of Toyota into the battery-powered vehicles market after halting production of the RAV4 EV in 2014.
Toyota president Akio Toyoda said in September the company is a "little bit late" in the EV segment even as rival carmakers such as Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co push ahead with that technology.
Global carmakers are rushing in with new strategies for low-emission vehicles in China, the world's biggest car market. On Thursday, Volkswagen said it will invest more than 10 billion euros (S$16 billion) with its partners to make and develop a range of new-energy vehicles in China. Last week, Ford said it will invest five billion yuan (S$1 billion) with its partner in China.
Toyota trails its Japanese rivals Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co in China, although all three carmakers saw sales rise this year, helped partly by a slump at Korean rival Hyundai Motor Co. Honda is challenging the leadership Nissan has held since 2009, partly on the success of the XR-V and Vezel compact crossovers.
Like other foreign carmakers in China, Toyota provides slightly different versions of the same vehicle to its local joint-venture partners to ensure they are equally supplied with the most popular models. The C-HR will be available with partner Guangzhou Automobile Group Co, while the IZOA will be offered with FAW Group Corp. Toyota introduced the C-HR in Japan and Europe in late 2016, and in the US from April.
Toyota's China sales in the first 10 months of this year totalled 1.07 million vehicles, compared with Honda's 1.16 million and Nissan's 1.17 million. Nissan on Friday said it's raising its full-year China sales target to 1.5 million vehicles.