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But some analysts said Toyota seems to have bowed to larger political concerns, calculating that by allying with the politically powerful Detroit automakers on the anti-environment lawsuits, it could defuse pressure in Congress for anti-Japanese tariffs. sales are soaring while American automakers' sales are slumping, there is never time for bragging. consumers are concluding that what they save in gasoline and on tax credits from driving a hybrid does not justify the roughly ,000 premium they face at the dealership, even with high and volatile fuel prices, analysts said. or pay for it incrementally in the form of a different vehicle that gets a slightly lower fuel economy," CSM Worldwide analyst Mike Jackson said.

"Toyota is hypersensitive to the potential for protectionist backlash," Jeffrey Liker said, pointing out that Toyota's exports from Japan to North America are growing fast, reaching 940,000 cars in 2005, up 16 percent from 2004. fuel-efficiency rules, the high mileage of the Prius helps Toyota comply with fleet averages even as it launches gas guzzlers like a larger, beefed-up version of the Tundra, its big pickup. A hybrid version of the best-selling Camry will be released this autumn. And here's why that "successful gamble" could very well be just a lot of hype. type=ousiv&story ID=2006-04-24T203917Z_01_N24388311_RTRIDST_0_BUSINESSPRO-AUTOS-HYBRIDS-DC. XML US hybrid sales mostly slack despite gasoline hike Mon Apr 24, 2006 PM ET By Poornima Gupta DETROIT (Reuters) - U. gas prices have risen nearly a third over the past year without touching off a boom in sales of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, some of which are sitting on dealer lots for as long as three months. That poses a problem for car makers including Honda Motor Co. Gasoline prices across United States are nearing a gallon, up from .23 a year ago, driven by a surge in oil prices to record highs. consumers, the economics still favor traditional gasoline-powered cars.

" John Cleveland, vice president of IRN Inc., an auto industry consulting firm in Grand Rapids, Mich., said Toyota views environmental concern as simple business logic, not "do-gooderism." Toyota has been the most explicit automaker "about the environmental challenge facing the auto industry because it has always had such a long-term perspective, ever since the days of Mr.

Toyoda, when he started the company with a 50-year business plan," Cleveland said, referring to Kiichiro Toyoda, who founded the company in 1938 as an offshoot of his family's textile loom business.

The project was the brainchild of Toyota's chairman at the time, Eiji Toyoda, a member of the company's controlling family, who had an unusual obsession with energy saving.

The secretive project, known internally only as G21, was at first not meant to be a hybrid.

That December, management came with a thunderbolt -- instead of a 50 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, the new car would need a 100 percent improvement. In August 1995, Toyota's new chairman, Hiroshi Okuda, came with another thunderbolt -- instead of the previous target date of December 1998, the project would have to be completed by December 1997."Now, they're starting to realize they have an almost 0 billion market (capitalization) based on a carbon energy source that's diminishing, and they're wondering, 'What's our company going to be worth 50 years from now, when oil may be much more scarce?