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Toyota to Make Hybrid Car Batteries in North America

Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp., preparing to build Prius hybrids in the U.S. by 2010, will eventually make advanced batteries within North America to power the gasoline- electric cars, Vice Chairman Kazuo Okamoto said.

``We will start producing batteries in North America,'' Okamoto told reporters today in New York. The date of such production, now done only in Japan, depends on oil prices, which Toyota expects to continue rising, he said, without elaborating.

Toyota said on July 10 it would assemble the Prius at a plant under construction in Mississippi, scrapping plans to make Highlander sport-utility vehicles there. The company, which already makes gasoline-electric Camrys in the U.S., lacks local suppliers of unique parts such as nickel-metal batteries and electric motors for Prius and other hybrids.

Limited supplies of the Prius led to a 4 percent drop in U.S. sales this year through August for the market's most fuel- efficient car, even as gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon. U.S. allocation of the cars is 15,000 a month, little changed from a year ago, Jim Lentz, president of the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker's U.S. sales unit, said today in New York.
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