UPDATE 1-Toyota to show new Prius model in January

* New Prius model to be shown in Detroit in January

* Oct US industry sales could top 12 million annualized

* North American plants at 90 pct capacity, full in 2011

By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT, Oct 14 (BestGrowthStock) – Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: )
will show off a coming variant of its Prius hybrid in January
as it seeks to distance itself from a costly safety crisis that
has weakened sales and damaged its once-sterling reputation.

Don Esmond, Toyota Motor Sales USA senior vice president
for automotive operations, would not say how the upcoming model
will differ from the the automaker’s current market-leading
Prius.

The Prius dominates the market for hybrids, accounting for
70 percent of global sales, and Toyota seeks to expand the
Prius into a “family” of models.

“We will introduce the next member of the Prius family at
the 2011 auto show here in Detroit in January,” said Esmond,
speaking to the Automotive Press Association at the Detroit
Athletic Club.

“It’s an all-new model with more comfort, styling,
versatility, and while still retaining the heritage of the
original Prius,” said Esmond.

Esmond said the Toyota brand will introduce seven new or
updated products in 2011.

Tesla Motors (TSLA.O: ) this week said it has reached a $60
million deal with Toyota to develop the powertrain for an
electric version of the Rav4 sport utility vehicle.

Working with Tesla on electric vehicles is “a step in the
right direction” for Toyota, Esmond said, but the company will
remain focused on hybrids when it comes to alternatives to
conventional gasoline vehicles.

The worst safety crisis in company history included a
suspension of some of Toyota’s best-selling models early this
year, cut sales in the United States — its top market, and
pushed Toyota to uncharacteristically increase incentives to
entice buyers.

“We’ve gone back to the basics of more carefully listening
to our customers, and have made some significant changes to
become more responsive, safety-focused organization,” Esmond
said.

He said Toyota is recovering steadily from the safety
crisis.

“We’ve tarnished the brand but we did not rust it all the
way through,” said Esmond.

Esmond said that Toyota’s North American auto plants are
now operating at 90 percent of capacity, and will reach full
capacity next year.

In 2011, Corolla sedans will roll off a new assembly plant
in Mississippi, the 10th Toyota plant in North America, Esmond
said.

A Japanese newspaper reported that Toyota is considering
halting exports from Japan of the Corolla. The sedan is now
made in 15 countries and the automaker has been considering
halting exports from Japan in part on a weak yen.
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OCTOBER SALES

U.S. auto sales are on pace for October to be the best
month of 2010, a sign that the U.S. economy is slowly
recovering, Esmond said.

If sales through the recent weekend continue through the
month, October’s sales rate on an annualized basis will be 12
million to 12.3 million vehicles, he said.

That would eclipse the highest monthly sales so far this
year. In March, 11.8 million units sold, on a seasonally
adjusted annualized rate.

For 2011, Toyota has said it expects U.S. light vehicle
sales to be around 12.3 million vehicles.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Bernard Orr)

UPDATE 1-Toyota to show new Prius model in January