Fleet News

Panasonic goes for Toyota hybrid power

ELECTRONICS giant Panasonic is to create one of the largest hybrid vehicle fleets in the country after agreeing to lease six Toyota Prius models. The Prius, which can achieve fuel economy of more than 57.6mpg on the combined cycle and 61.4mpg in town, has already proved a massive hit with drivers in Toyota's home country, with at least 40,000 sold since it was launched as the world's first mass-produced hybrid in 1997.

Tony Whitehorn, Toyota sales director, praised Panasonic for its environmental stance. He said: 'This is a company showing how seriously it takes the environment.' He added that more than 200 units had already been sold in the UK - mainly to retail buyers -and added that demand was outstripping supply. The Prius produces about half the carbon dioxide emissions of a conventional saloon and one tenth of the toxic emissions of conventional petrol-engined cars of the same size. When pulling away at low speed the Prius uses electric power while at higher speeds the petrol engine is used for power and to recharge the batteries.

The five-seater saloons, which went on sale in the UK in October, are priced at £16,495, but the first 550 have been approved for PowerShift grants of £1,000. Customers ordering a Prius will pay the full list price and receive a voucher from Toyota entitling them to their rebate. The PowerShift grants apply to any Prius produced before March 31 and Toyota hopes to negotiate further rebates from April. Although Toyota admits it makes no profit on the car, it has opened the door for other hybrids and the company unveiled a four-wheel drive MPV hybrid at the Geneva Motor Show this week, based on the Previa.

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