Toyota is consistently ranked as the most environmentally friendly car company, mostly due to its leading position in the development and production of hybrid gas-electric vehicles. The origins of the Toyota Prius, the quintessential gas-electric hybrid, can be traced all the way back to 1992 when the company committed to a corporate “Earth Charter.” The Toyota Prius was introduced in Japan in 1997 and brought to the United States in 2000. Since that time, Toyota has sold more than 1 million hybrids globally—and has sold more hybrids than all other car companies combined. While Toyota remains committed to hybrids—aiming to sell 1 million hybrids annually in the next few years (and promising 10 new hybrids by 2014)—the company is motivated as much by profitability as by protecting the planet. Environmental groups have criticized Toyota for introducing large pickup trucks and SUVs in recent years, as well as dragging its heels on plug-in cars. Nonetheless, company executives openly talk about diminishing global oil supplies They see greener cars, especially hybrids, as the way to thrive in the 21st century.

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