Wednesday, July 11, 2007, posted by Auto Rider at 11:53 PM

Toyota Motor Corp.'s North American chief said vehicles powered by gasoline-electric hybrid engines will dominate U.S. roads as fuel prices continue to rise. The largest Japanese automaker hopes high fuel prices push drivers from gas guzzlers to more efficient product lines.

"Eventually, everything will be a hybrid," said Jim Press, president of Toyota Motor North America, in an interview Tuesday in New York. Hybrids have been driving Toyota's growth in the U.S., he said.

Toyota sells three out of every five hybrids purchased in the U.S., most of them Prius models.

Toyota, Japan's biggest carmaker and second to General Motors worldwide, is aiming to make as many as 400,000 gasoline-electric vehicles in 2006, including Prius cars, Camry sedans, Highlander sport utility vehicles and Coaster buses, Katsuaki Watanabe, president of Toyota, said at an investor conference in New York Monday. Hybrid vehicles combine a gasoline engine with a battery pack that is recharged through braking. A Prius hybrid carries a sticker price of $20,875 in California.

"The Prius is the forerunner," Press said. The Prius is one of the first mass-produced and marketed hybrid electric vehicles on the roads today. The Prius was a milestone model for the largest Japanese automaker. Car owners also want to emphasize they are driving an environment-friendly car. There are currently 12 hybrids available, including the Civic hybrid from Honda Motor Co and the Escape SUV from Ford Motor Co. The receipts fell 6.4 percent this year.

"We believe that in 10 years the world will be filled with hybrids," Mr. Okamoto said.