Toyota talk up ambitious hybrid car plan for late 2012

Toyota Hybrid Synergy DriveThe Vice President of Toyota’s Brand Sales in the US, Bob Carter, has given a hint of the company’s plans for a new hybrid model set to be released this year, while speaking at the Automotive News World Congress currently being held on Detroit.

Already flying high thanks to the announcement of the Prius C, or Aqua as it’s known in Japan, Mr.Carter said that before the end of this year Toyota would introduce a hybrid car with “more room than a BMW X5, faster than a VW TDi and higher MPG than a Fiat 500.”

For reference, the North American version of the Fiat 500 returns around 35mpg, while the performance of VW’s 140hp TDi engine in the Jetta is around 8.5 seconds to 60mph.

He continued to describe the car as “near-luxury”, an odd phrase that sounds like marketing speak for “standard, but with a leather option,” and that it would reflect the “price and value of a Toyota.” Designed and engineered in the USA, the car will be revealed in the second half of the year.

What vehicle could he be referring too? Since Toyota already has hybrid versions of the Camry and Highlander, it won’t be one of those, leaving either a brand-new model or a reworked Avalon. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that that Carter “declined to say” that the new hybrid would be based on the big-but-dreary Avalon, which should automatically make it more likely.