Toyota Motor has officially marked the start of production of the new Aqua (Prius C) hybrid compact car at a plant operated by subsidiary Kanto Auto Works in Kanegasaki, Iwate Prefecture.

''Japan cannot be revitalised without the reconstruction of the northeastern region,'' Toyota president Akio Toyoda told a celebration ceremony, referring to the region devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, including Iwate, Kyodo News reported.

''We would like to contribute to the reconstruction and [supply] high-quality vehicles to our customers,'' the plant's manager, Naoto Tanoue, said.

The Iwate plant actually started Aqua production on 19 December after Toyota released a plan to build the new petrol-electric hybrid car at a new company to be created through a merger of three subsidiaries - Kanto Auto Works, Central Motor and Toyota Motor Tohoku - later this year.

The Aqua boasts fuel economy of 35.4km per litre of petrol under a new standard, taking advantage of a lightweight hybrid system.