Toyota launched production of Europe’s first full hybrid vehicle on Monday at its car factory in Burnaston, central England. The first European-made hybrid version of Toyota’s Auris hatchback rolled off the production line under the watchful eye of the government’s business minister Vince Cable, handing a boost to Britain’s battered car industry.
“Toyota’s decision to make Burnaston the only plant in the world to build the Hybrid Auris is a strong endorsement of the UK as a manufacturing base for the next generation of cars,” said Cable, after touring the Burnaston plant. “It is sending a signal to manufacturers that if you’re not in the UK, then you’re missing out on all the strengths and skills that the UK has to offer.”
The new Auris Hybrid Synergy Drive car uses both a traditional petrol engine and an electric motor, and will arrive at British car showrooms on July 1. The new car will be assembled at Burnaston, in Derbyshire, while the engines will be produced in Deeside, northern Wales. They are the first hybrid engines to be made outside of Japan.
“The UK has proved to be a valuable business partner. A new chapter is opening today as Britain, a traditional origin of industrial innovation, becomes home to the manufacture of the first full hybrid vehicle for Europe,” said Toyota’s Motor Europe president Didier Leroy.
Katsunori Kojima, managing director of Toyota Manufacturing UK, said the group was proud to begin British production. “To manufacture a world-class vehicle you need a world-class team and the commitment and dedication of our members has been crucial.”
The group’s reputation was stained by a series of recalls for accelerator and brake problems on a whole range of their cars. The Japanese giant has recalled around 10 million vehicles worldwide since late last year after being blamed for more than 80 deaths in the U.S. Toyota president Akio Toyoda last week apologised to shareholders for the mass recalls.