A car that can park itself without the driver having to touch the steering wheel, said by maker Toyota Motor Corp. to be a world first, went on sale in Japan on September 1, according to a Reuters report.
Toyota's new hybrid gasoline-electric Prius sedan uses electrically operated power steering and sensors that guide the car when reversing into parking spaces, Reuters said.
Toyota President Fujio Cho sat in the driver's seat at a demonstration for the press, surprising reporters by holding his hands up as the car quickly parked itself, according to Reuters.
"I forgot to put on the brake," Cho said. "But it's easy."
The new Prius five-seat passenger model is said by Toyota to be more fuel efficient and cheaper than its predecessors. Rivals General Motors and Ford Motor Co. will launch their first hybrids this year, Reuters reported.
Toyota said it expects to sell 76,000 new Prius units worldwide in 2004, counting on growing demand for environment-friendly cars, according to Reuters.
The sales target is more than double the annual figure for the Prius for the past two years of around 28,000 units, Reuters said. Toyota, the world's third largest automaker, has sold about 120,000 of the cars since its launch in December 1997, according to Reuters.
"Development of eco-friendly cars is a key to our future growth strategy," Cho told reporters.
Toyota aims to sell 36,000 units at home, 35,000-36,000 in the United States and 4,000-5,000 in the rest of the world next year, he said, according to Reuters.
The new model sells for $18,430 in Japan, against $19,000 previously. The intelligent park assist system is offered as an option, at an additional cost of $2,000, which includes a DVD navigation system, Reuters said.
Toyota and Honda Motor Co. are the only automakers to sell hybrid vehicles, which combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor to make them twice as fuel efficient as ordinary cars of the same size, Reuters reported.
Toyota has set itself a goal of producing 300,000 of the eco-friendly hybrid vehicles a year by 2005 or 2006, Reuters said.