LONDON - While Citigroup is gearing up for Chinese consumers' wallets, Toyota Motor is thinking of their wheels. The Japanese auto maker is beginning production of its hybrid car, Prius, in a key Chinese industrial city.
The fuel-efficient car--which Forbes.com reviewed and liked--has been a hit with U.S. celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Leonardo DiCaprio, who have swapped their limos for the more climate friendly roadster. Its hybrid engine was even being eyed by General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ).
As they develop deeper pockets, the Chinese may soon embrace similarly socially conscious purchasing--although with high oil prices some would say hybrids are an economically savvy choice. Either way, the country's auto market is growing, and Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ), headed by Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, is paying attention.
Toyota's joint vehicle production with China FAW Group will be producing the trendy fuel-efficient cars in Changchun City, Jilin Province. It will be the first time that Toyota, Japan's biggest auto maker, produces outside of home soil.
The Chinese-built Prius cars will be priced at around $36,000 and the joint venture aims to sell some 3,000 cars in 2006, Toyota said in a statement.
"It is my strong wish that the Prius built here in Changchun will contribute to the widespread use of hybrid vehicles in China,” Toyota's executive vice president, Yoshimi Inaba, said at an event marking the new production.
Internet orders in China are scheduled to begin Friday, December 16. Whether or not the Prius sells like hotcakes there too remains to be seen.