My name is Akihiko Saito, and I am the Executive Vice President of R&D, design and quality control at Toyota Motor Corporation. It is a pleasure to be here with you all this evening, and I thank you for coming. Despite a difficult global business and political environment, 2002 was a significant year for Toyota, as our combined global sales passed the 6 million mark for the first time, attaining 6.16 million units. In addition, we manufactured 6.3 million units in 2002. Toyota's global growth can only be sustained by developing specific action plans for each region of the world, and ensuring we continue to act in a sure and bold manner. For instance, Toyota will need great products, one of which we believe is the new Toyota Avensis, created specifically for the European market and launched last month. With its precise fit and finish, excellent ride comfort and handling, and "designed-in-Europe" styling, we look forward to strong sales of the new Avensis. Toyota is pleased to announce this evening that the new Toyota Avensis, which will be built at our U.K. plant, will be sold in Japan as of this fall as well.
This evening, I would like to outline how environmental performance and technology will play a key role in the future success of our company. It is natural that Toyota responds to the ever-greater concerns of our customers regarding the environment, and the way automobiles interact with it. Firstly, Toyota has made significant advances in diesel engine technology - key to being successful in the European market. Toyota has developed an epoch-making Toyota D-CAT (Diesel Clean Advanced Technology) system that uses the same DPNR catalytic converter to reduce both particulate matter and NOx. The new Toyota Avensis will be fitted with Toyota D-CAT as of this summer, starting with the U.K. and Germany. Toyota D-CAT delivers considerably cleaner emissions than those required by the strict Euro IV emissions standards. Our strengths in diesel technology are also recognized by other automotive companies: Toyota will this year begin to supply BMW with the same 1.4-liter direct injection diesel engines used in the Toyota Yaris. Toyota plans to continue developing a product line-up of diesel vehicles that lead the world in terms of power, fuel efficiency and clean emissions.
Alongside the continued improvement of conventional engines, we have been focusing on the development of hybrid technology. Since the launch of the Prius - the world's first mass-produced hybrid vehicle - our annual sales of hybrid vehicles have been growing continuously over the last four years. To date, we have sold over 130,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide, and plan on selling about 300,000 annually, by the middle of this decade. In January, Toyota announced a newly developed hybrid system that represents an evolutionary leap from the Toyota Hybrid System (THS) - and versions of it - used in the Prius, Estima and Crown. This new hybrid system is a next - generation hybrid system that creates a "synergy " between environmental concerns
and the emotion we want our cars to convey. We call this achievement "Hybrid Synergy Drive." The SU-HV - an SUV concept HV vehicle on display at this year's Geneva Motor Show, is fitted with this new hybrid system. When paired with the V6 engine of the SUV, the new system provides dynamic performance on a par with a V8-powered equivalent, while maintaining compact-class fuel efficiency and placing the SU-HV in the highest tier of ultra-low emission SUVs. Future development of hybrid vehicles will revolve around this core system, which can be applied to a wide range of vehicles. Indeed, Toyota can also announce this evening that the new Lexus RX SUV will be marketed with this new system in Europe within the next two years.
Beyond the present, what will the future hold? Toyota plans to further develop and market our fuel cell hybrid vehicles, or FCHVs. Today's FCHVs owe a lot of their technology to the Prius and its Hybrid System. By applying the technology of the Prius to an FCHV, higher efficiencies and much greater performance have become possible.
In December 2002, Toyota became the first and only company in the world to market fuel cell hybrid vehicles featuring a completely in-house-developed fuel cell stack. These FCHVs were introduced to Japan and the United States. We will continue to market our FCHVs, which have the added benefit of being created entirely with Toyota's proprietary technology. You will be able to view the FINE-S, the next step in
fuel cell vehicle development tomorrow on our stand. The FINE-S, which stands for Fuel Cell Innovative Emotion-Sport, features Toyota's proprietary fuel cell and hybrid technologies and sports an evolutionary design that goes beyond that of conventional automobiles. This new-generation, spacious fuel-cell vehicle achieves exceptional drivability due to its low center of gravity and independent four-wheel control. And since our styling specialists were involved from the very start, the FINE-S promises an emotional experience in terms of looks, as well as performance.
We have created vehicles such as the SU-HV and FINE-S because we at Toyota understand that environmental technology alone is not enough to attract and impress customers. So, we set out to combine advanced environmental technology with genuine emotional appeal. Toyota is committed to meeting the high quality of performance that is expected by its European customers. We are constantly seeking to impress our customers by producing vehicles that possess originality and ingenuity. This aspiration led Toyota to enter Formula 1 last year, and is reflected in our wide array of environmentally advanced vehicles. You will find, ladies and gentlemen, many concrete examples of our dedication to our customers and the creation of innovative environmental technology on our stand. I hope you enjoy them as much as your meal this evening!