Battery Production Change

Toyota Motor Corporation’s Japanese customers wait eight months to buy a Prius hybrid car, which may avoid long delays in the future thanks to Panasonic Corporation’s pending takeover of Sanyo Electric.

As demand grows for electric and gasoline-electric hybrid cars, a shortage of the batteries used in the vehicles may force automakers to compete for supply. Toyota, which aims to offer hybrid versions of all its models sometime after 2020, may find it easier to do so after its partner Panasonic makes Sanyo a back-up plan.

Government rebate programs encouraging customers to trade in old vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones (the CARS program) have added to the demand that’s forcing customers to wait for their Prius’s. Toyota registered 77,000 new Prius cars between May and the end of August, compared with a monthly sales target of 10,000. In the U.S., new sales of the model rose more than 20 percent to about 62,000 in the four months to September. Batteries and other Toyota parts should have sped up production by 2011, putting more and more hybrids on the highway