Toyota Motor plans to double its worldwide output of petrol-electric hybrid cars to 1m units in 2011, according to Japanese media reports on Monday.

According to the Nikkei business daily, the automaker said it aimed to sell 1m hybrids annually worldwide soon after 2010 and had been boosting its hybrid model line, introducing the Sai sedan, the brand's second hybrid-only model, in Japan recently.

Low emission hybrids have enjoyed strong sales thanks to generous subsidies and tax breaks. The Prius, Toyota's flagship hybrid, became Japan's best-selling car in 2009, Reuters noted.

"For the foreseeable future, the focus of Toyota's (low-emission car) strategy will be on hybrids, not electric or fuel-cell cars," Kazaka Securities chief analyst Yoshihiko Tabei told the news agency, adding the production volume reported by the Nikkei was in line with his expectations.

"Except for Honda, Toyota is facing little competition in hybrids and is set to put distance between itself and other automakers."

A Toyota Motor Europe spokesman said the automaker had no comment on the Nikkei report. The company usually does not respond to "media speculation".

Last week, a senior Toyota executive said he wanted the planned Prius plug-in hybrid - due for launch in mid-2011 - to be offered at an 'affordable' price so it becomes popular.

Yoshikazu Tanaka told Kyodo News: ''I want to make the vehicle widely available by setting a price that even general consumers can reach,'' adding that people would not buy the vehicle unless the price was around JPY3m (US$32,800; GBP20,100).

He said the plug in version's price could be dropped further by reducing battery cost and standardising parts, and by setting a sales target of several tens of thousands of units a year.

With 80,000 orders already on the books, Toyota last May launched the third-generation Prius in Japan priced from JPY2.05m, almost JPY300,000 cheaper than the previous lowest-priced model and close to the rival Honda Insight hybrid's JPY1.89m launch price.

The automaker set an initial monthly sales target of 10,000 units in its home market and aimed to sell about 300,000-400,000 units of the entire Prius range (second and third generation) and a total of about 500,000-600,000 hybrid cars worldwide in 2009. The Prius ended 2009 as Japan's top selling car, with 208,876 orders, nearly three times the previous year's tally.

Toyota's US unit recently told just-auto its new plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi, would eventually build the Prius, currently imported from Japan, although timing depended on how quickly the depressed US market recovered.

A spokesman said the automaker would assemble the Prius in the southern state but only when the market turned upwards. No timing had yet been announced. The line is currently made at two plants in Japan and assembled from kits in China.

Toyota plans to add about 10 new hybrid models in the next few years to its existing range and to increase the number of sites where it can assemble hybrid models, the Nikkei said in its unsourced report.

Toyota's global production of hybrid cars was likely to have been 500,000 units in 2009, accounting for about 8% of its overall production, the paper added.

The automaker recently notified parts suppliers that it intends to roll out about 800,000 hybrids domestically this year, with the figure to be raised to around 900,000 in 2011 and 1.1m in 2012, the Nikkei added.

In 2011, hybrids likely would account for about 30% of all vehicles that Toyota manufactures in Japan, up from the projected figure of about 20 percent for 2009, it said.

Toyota has already expanded hybrid production to include China (Prius) and the United States, Thailand and Australia (Camry hybrid), typically receiving some form of state-backed incentives to build the fuel-efficient vehicles locally, Reuters noted.