Thought you would like to know about the bump in production for 2005 model:

Toyota Motor Corp. will increase production of its Prius hybrid in the first half of 2005, to 15,000 cars a month from 10,000 a month now.

Toyota is raising Prius production to meet a backlog of U.S. orders. The additional cars will start showing up on U.S. dealer lots as 2005 models.

``Demand in America is very strong,'' says Takeshi Suzuki, a Toyota senior managing director in charge of finance and accounting. ``So we'd like to focus production more on overseas markets'' than sales in Japan, he says.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. says it is negotiating with its Japanese parent to increase the North American allocation of the Prius significantly for the 2005 model year.

Toyota builds 10,000 of the cars a month and another 10,000 a year on overtime, for an annual output of 130,000. With the 50 percent increase in output, Prius production will rise to 180,000 cars annually in straight time. Toyota could exceed that figure with overtime.

The Prius will become one of Toyota's highest volume models built in Japan. Annual production of 180,000 cars annually would have ranked it fourth among models Toyota built in Japan in 2003. Only the Corolla, Land Cruiser Prado and RAV4 had higher production numbers last year.

Suzuki could not specify when Toyota would begin building more of the hybrid cars. It is negotiating with suppliers over when and how to get more batteries, power-control units and motors for the Prius.

It also has not decided whether to build the cars in a second plant. Toyota builds the Prius at its Tsutsumi plant near its central Japan headquarters in Toyota City. Company officials say Toyota will build the extra output on an existing line at an existing plant in Japan. But they would not say whether that will be at Tsutsumi.

The Japanese newspaper Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reported that Toyota has consigned output of the additional Prius cars to its vehicle-assembly affiliate, Toyota Auto Body Co. The newspaper said the company will build the cars at its Fujimatsu plant in Kariya City, Japan, which builds the Estima HV hybrid minivan for Japan.