Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has held a line-off ceremony for the first Camry Hybrid built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK). This is also the beginning of Toyota hybrid vehicle production in North America.

At the ceremony, TMMK chief Steve St. Angelo said: "We are proud, excited and honoured to be Toyota's first plant in North America to build a hybrid vehicle."

TMMK was established in 1986 and is Toyota's largest plant in North America. It employs approximately 7,000 and currently builds the Camry, Avalon and Solara. The plant has the capacity to build 500,000 vehicles annually. Since its inception, TMMK has built about 6.7m vehicles, and the plant's current investment is $US5.4bn.

TMMK, which invested approximately $US10m toward production of the Camry Hybrid, will have annual production capacity of 48,000 units of that model.

Sales of the model, sourced initially from Japan, in North America began last May and around 23,000 units were sold by the end of September.

Cumulatively, starting with the Prius in 2000 and including the Highlander Hybrid, the RX400h and the GS450h, approximately 420,000 Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles had been sold in North America by the end of that month.

Toyota's next hybrid is the flagship Lexus LS600h due in 2007.

Toyota hybrid production outside Japan began in China last year with local assembly of the Prius.