Sichuan FAW Toyota Motor (SFTM), a joint venture between Toyota Motor Corporaton and China FAW Group Corporation (FAW), has built its first Prius hybrid passenger vehicle from a CKD kit at SFTM Chanchun Fengyue in Changchun City, Jilin Province.

The expected line-up of hundreds of Japanese and Chinese officials turned out to greet the first car off the line, significant for also being the first Toyota hybrid assembled outside Japan.

TMC executive vice president Yoshimi Inaba said: "In addition to China's new automobile policy that encourages the use of hybrid vehicles, the introduction of emission regulations on par with those in Europe and the United States is also moving forward.

"To respond to such government policies as quickly as possible, FAW and TMC came together in deciding to introduce the Prius to the Chinese market. TMC is truly proud that the first-ever production of the Prius outside Japan has begun, and it is my strong wish that the Prius built here in Changchun will contribute to the widespread use of hybrid vehicles in China."

The price of the Chinese-built Prius is a stiff 288,000 to 302,000 Chinese yuan ($US35,700 to $37,400 compared with from just $21,725 in the US). Sales target is 3,000 units in 2006 and internet orders start on Friday 16 December.

TMC and FAW agreed in September 2004 to locally produce the Prius - the first hybrid vehicle to be built in China under the country's national hybrid vehicle certification system, which came into effect on 1 October.

SFTM is a joint venture between Sichuan Tourer Manufacturing and TMC, and was established in November 1998 as Sichuan Toyota Motor (SCTM), in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province. It was re-launched in July as SFTM, following a merger with Changchun FAW Fengyue Auto (based in Changchun City), a subsidiary of FAW. At present, SFTM produces the Coaster and Land Cruiser Prado in Chengdu and the Land Cruiser and Prius in Changchun.