Hybrid car pioneers Toyota and Honda say they probably can't build enough of the fuel-saving models to meet demand this year as rising gasoline prices stir consumer interest, Bloomberg News
The news agency said sales of the three gasoline-electric models, Toyota's Prius and Honda's Insight and Civic Hybrid, are up 50 percent so far this year but a Prius model change late this year and a production ceiling at Honda mean sales may be limited to about 50,000 cars in 2003.
"Given expected availability and product-release schedules, hybrid sales could be 50,000 to 55,000 this year, no higher," Walter McManus, a global forecasting director for JD Power & Associates, told Bloomberg News.
Hybrid sales remain at niche levels as retail costs are as much as $4,000 more than equivalent gasoline-powered cars and consumers are wary of new technology, analysts told Bloomberg News.
Toyota and Honda combined sold 36,000 hybrids in the US last year, just 0.2 percent of 16.8 million new cars and trucks bought, Bloomberg News
The news agency said that Toyota has forecast sales of 21,000 Prius in 2003, compared with 20,119 last year, as supplies of the current version run down ahead of the launch of a redesigned 2004 model.
"Demand for Prius is going to continue to outstrip supply," spokesman John Hanson told Bloomberg News
. "The plan right now is to continue to cycle down inventories in preparation for the next generation."