Toyota says it’s "bemused" by the Wall Street Journal's recent story that the timing for its next generation of the Prius has been pushed back. Rebutting the story, Toyota issued the following statement:

"We've been very interested to note stories in The Wall Street Journal over the past couple of days purporting that the introduction of a next-generation Prius has been delayed because of the slow pace of development of lithium-ion batteries.

The Journal also claims that those same concerns have postponed the introduction of the use of our Hybrid Synergy Drive, using those batteries, in other Toyota vehicle lines such as the Sequoia and the Tundra.

Of course Toyota maintains detailed schedules for future vehicle development, production and launch--schedules that are under constant refinement as market conditions and consumer needs evolve. But, we've never announced the timing for the introduction of a next-generation Prius, or for any of our other hybrid vehicles. We do, in fact, introduce our vehicles only when they're ready for introduction.

For that matter, we've not shared much information about a next-generation Prius, since--like most companies operating in a highly competitive market--we don't talk explicitly about future product. And we've not discussed the type of battery that any hypothetical next-generation version of Hybrid Synergy Drive might use.

So to suggest that any timing has been changed for the introduction of a vehicle for which an introduction schedule hasn't been finalized and published, using battery technology that we've previously said isn't ready for prime-time, is - well, it's curious and perplexing.

In fact, we have consistently affirmed that there are many issues that need to be resolved, beyond the safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries, before a commercial lithium-ion-equipped hybrid - and what we're talking about here is the so-called plug-in hybrid, or PHEV - is ready for the market.

These issues include battery cost, availability, performance and packaging. All of the car makers face the same problems when it comes to these issues. The answers, unfortunately, are not just around the corner.

We will, as usual, develop our drive systems, and the vehicles they power, until we get them completely right. Our aim is produce the best hybrid possible, and nothing less. And when it comes to PHEVs, the race to produce a workable, practical PHEV won't necessarily go to the swift. It will go to the company that gets its homework done properly. So rather than be distracted by reports like those in the Journal, we'll work to produce the next generation Prius - and indeed, the next generation of Hybrid Synergy Drive. They will appear only when our high standards are met.

That said, the part that the story's author got correct is our concern with safety, albeit not just battery safety. We're a global car company focused on producing high quality vehicles that are dependable, reliable and fun to drive; cars and trucks that deliver a customer experience that is second to none and one that does not include any compromise on the well-being of our customers. It should go without saying that occupant safety and protection is an element of our business that permeates everything we do-Kaizening relentlessly.

For those of you who don't closely follow hybrid technology, one issue has been that lithium-ion batteries, the same sort of thing used in my laptop at work and my cordless drill at home, can produce heat under certain conditions. That's wasting energy. Our focus is on ensuring we're putting the right lithium-ion batteries in future hybrids-new batteries that are efficient, much lighter, more affordable, worry-free and as durable as the Toyota vehicles they help propel.

In fact, Lithium-ion batteries are in use today in a number of consumer products and even in a Toyota car that we don't sell in the states. A high performance hybrid power management system is employed in the "intelligent package" of Toyota Vitz vehicles sold in Japan.

Other manufacturers who are counting on this technology have also acknowledged the unique challenges. Range per charge is one such obstacle to overcome. A 10-mile round trip to the train station or market in Japan is not at all unusual. But in the U.S., that's a rarity, and consumers will expect considerably more in electric charge capacity-no matter what the battery type.

Prototype hybrids using lithium-ion batteries already exist, but promises of longer driving ranges on a single charge appear to be several years away. Why? Because nobody has fully figured out the optimum use of lithium-ion batteries in automobiles.

Are we working on this? Sure we are. So are others. Prime-time readiness for this technology will come. But there's just no way to tell when the required chemical, engineering and manufacturing breakthroughs will be made.

In the meantime, we continue to use nickel-metal-hydride batteries in our Hybrid Synergy Drive systems. For now, they represent the best technology for this use, and they're safe, reliable and recyclable - so reliable, in fact, that we can warrantee them in our Hybrid Synergy Drive systems for 150,000 miles.

That's the kind of benchmark we are compelled to shoot for with lithium-ion batteries."

Source: Irv Miller, Group Vice President, Toyota Corporate Communications

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