By Aditi Shah
NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) – Toyota on Friday introduced its first hybrid car to India’s mass market. The model, a sport utility vehicle (SUV), charts a new course for the Japanese automaker in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets.
The Urban Cruiser Hyryder, the first car to be assembled by Toyota as part of a global alliance with Suzuki, will compete with Hyundai and Kia in a segment that accounts for the bulk of car sales in India.
The new model will be a “game changer” in India’s electric automotive space, Vikram Kirloskar, vice chairman of the local unit Toyota Kirloskar Motor, said at a launch event in New Delhi.
Toyota had said it would go the hybrid route in developing markets like India and Brazil, where the infrastructure is not ready for electric vehicles.
While so-called green investors have criticized Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker by sales, for being slow to fully transform its product portfolio to electric models, the company said hybrids make more sense in markets where it needs to offer a variety of options depending on of the energy matrix and local needs.
In Brazil, for example, the automaker produces two hybrid flex models, which run on batteries, gasoline and ethanol. The automaker has encouraged flex technology in hybrids in markets such as India, a major sugar producer, as an alternative to calls for decarbonization.
Last year, Toyota committed to spending $60 billion by 2030 on electrifying the vehicle lineup, but only half of that is for the development of all-electric models.
The new vehicle, to be manufactured at Toyota’s plant in the Indian state of Karnataka, will be sold in the country and other global markets, including Africa. Suzuki will sell the vehicle under its own brand.