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Toyota Aqua debuts in Japan with unknown: Can new tiny hybrid sell well?

Toyota's smallest hybrid car, named the Aqua in Japan and the Prius C in the United States, went on sale December 26 in Japan with its native country's manufacturer hoping to attract young buyers to the entry level, fuel efficient market.

Priced with a U.S. dollar-converted $21,770, Toyota hopes to sell 12,000 Aquas per month in Japan as part of its global goal of selling 20 percent more hybrid vehicles in 2012 than it's expected to sell in final 2011 totals.

"The Aqua shows Toyota is increasing efforts to boost sales in the domestic market," said Mamoru Kato, an auto analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center in Nagoya, Japan. "Toyota raised the price of the Prius to a more profitable level, so the Aqua serves to meet demand for smaller, cheaper hybrids."

Side view, Toyota Aqua hybrid

The Aqua measures 12.8 feet in length, compared with the 14.7-foot Prius, and has as much legroom as a Corolla compact, according to chief engineer Satoshi Ogiso.

The Prius C is expected to debut in the United States in March 2012 at about 20 percent less than the entry level cost of the Prius.

United States' deliveries of the Prius, the world's best-selling hybrid car, rose 49 percent last month from a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp.

"While hybrids are generally projected to sell in developed markets like the U.S., it's difficult to say if such a small car as the Prius C will sell," said Kato.
 

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