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Toyota Plans To Make Prius At Toyota-GM JV Plant In California: Bloomberg

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) is considering making Prius hatchbacks at a California plant shared with General Motors Corp. (GMGMQ.PK), Bloomberg reported on Wednesday citing two people familiar with the plan.

As per the report, Toyota expects strong demand in the U.S., where the new model went on sale this month, and is raising output in Japan. Prius was Japan's top-selling model in May. The company has drawn more than 80,000 consumer orders for Prius before going on sale.

Toyota had earlier shelved its plans to build the hybrid at the Blue Springs factory in Mississippi. Given the time and cost to finish the half-built Mississippi facility, it may be easier to make the car at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., known as Nummi, the report said quoting the people who asked not to be identified because the discussions are not public. In December 2008, Toyota halted work on the $1.3 billion Mississippi factory after plunging U.S. sales created excess capacity at its North American plants.

Since 1984, Toyota and GM have shared the Fremont, California, plant, running it as a joint-venture equally owned by the two carmakers. The factory is California's only large auto-assembly plant, with capacity to make 420,000 cars and trucks a year. The plant employs about 5,400 people.

Meanwhile, Jim Wiseman, vice president of external affairs for Toyota's North American manufacturing unit reportedly said that the plan is still to build Prius in Mississippi as soon as demand and this economy turn around. He also said that he is unaware of discussion within Toyota to build Prius in California.

When GM filed for bankruptcy on June 1, Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said that his company had no plan yet to get vehicles from Nummi after the Pontiac Vibe goes out of production there next year.

TM closed Tuesday's trading at $75.72, down $0.95, on a volume of 543,800 shares.

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