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Jim Press: Prius was 100% subsidized by Japan

From Automotive News:

Jim Press: Prius was 100% subsidized by Japan
Toyota denies remarks made by its former U.S. executive

Philip Nussel
Automotive News
April 2, 2008 - 12:12 pm ET
UPDATED: 4/2/08 9:14 p.m. EDT


Chrysler co-President Jim Press is stirring things up at his former employer, Toyota Motor Corp., by saying development of the Prius hybrid was subsidized by the Japanese government.

In a BusinessWeek story published Thursday, March 24, Press said that when he was at Toyota, " The Japanese government paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system that went into the Toyota Prius."

Toyota today denied the remark made by Press, who left Toyota last year after a long career at the Japanese automaker. His last position there was president of Toyota Motor North America Inc.

" I can say 100 percent that Toyota received absolutely no support -- no money, no grants -- from the Japanese government for the development of the Prius," Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco told The Associated Press today in Tokyo.

According to the report, Nolasco said Toyota received no public money for developing the battery or any other part of the Prius.
Chrysler issued a statement about Press comments on Wednesday evening. It said Press was not speaking negatively of Toyota. The statement continued:
"In a recent interview, he referenced the close cooperation between the Japanese government and Japanese industry. He said the Japanese government strongly supported r&d investment in battery development, and the Prius and other Japanese models benefited from that investment in industry.

"He cited this as an example of cooperation between government and industry working together on public policy issues. He went on to say that he would like to see similar cooperation in the United States in order to find technological improvements that help give U.S. companies a competitive advantage."

The Prius dominates the U.S. hybrid market. During the first quarter, Toyota sold 42,907 Priuses, up 8.1 percent over the same period a year ago. In 2007, Toyota sold 181,221 Priuses, up 69.4 percent over 2006.

Press' comment was in a broader story about new corporate average fuel economy standards passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in December.

Press, a longtime advocate for hybrid technology, told BusinessWeek the new laws were " just part of the political process."

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, reacting to the quoted remarks by Press, told a Michigan business group on Wednesday that the U.S. government should also step in to help U.S. automakers.

"The Japanese government supported the development of the Prius," Gettelfinger said. "We don't have that support here today."
In the early 1990s, the U.S. government was active in brokering a cost-sharing agreement between the Detroit-based automakers to help them develop hybrid vehicles.
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