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Toyota's Prius Gamble Pays Off As Carmaker Becomes Trendsetter

Executives at GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler derided the hybrids as money-losers and lagged in producing their own models. Toyota pressed ahead, and its resulting hybrids -- the Prius, the Highlander SUV and Lexus RX400h, as well as a half-dozen other hybrid models sold only in Japan -- now dominate the market, accounting for about 80 percent of U.S. hybrid sales. PHOTO: EVWorld.Com

Published: 27-Apr-2006

Toyota City, Japan -- Satoshi Ogiso doesn't look or act like a brash automobile executive. With an ill-fitting suit and spiky hairdo, his hands flutter bashfully across his face as he talks of "difficulties," "challenges" and "problems."

The 45-year-old engineer refuses to brag about his accomplishments. But as chief engineer of the hybrid Prius, Ogiso has helped Toyota revolutionize the auto industry.

By making huge long-term investments in gas-saving technologies that U.S. automakers pooh-poohed, Toyota has proved that corporate environmental consciousness can be wildly profitable.

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Toyota engineers demonstrated the steering controls in the 180-kg unit, which can reach speeds of up to 50 kph.

By the end of October, the largest Japanese automaker said, its worldwide hybrid vehicle sales totaled about 513,000 units.

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