Toyota Motor Corporation plans to increase the number of Priuses it builds by 60 percent for 2009, according to a report in Nikkei News. This translates to 450,000 vehicles, up from last year’s production number of 280,000.

The automaker will invest in two U.S. plants to keep up with the growing demand for its eco-friendly stalwart. This is a major step for Toyota’s overall goal to reach 1 million hybrid vehicles annually for the global marketplace. It aims to hit this number within the next five to seven years.

Honda has also ramped up its green car plans with an affordable small hybrid expected for next year. The carmaker forecasts annual global sales in the 200,000 unit range, with half of those sales coming from the United States. Honda is striving to elevate its total global hybrid output number to 500,000, a significant boost over the 55,000 cars it produced in 2007.

Toyota and Honda have been selling hybrids in the U.S. since 2000. The two companies have demonstrated the most consistent long-term commitment to hybrids—and could serve as barometers for the hybrid segment. As they increase hybrid production, other major automakers are expected to follow with increases in production, albeit with smaller numbers. In Feb. 2008, Toyota gas-electric vehicles represented 82 percent of the hybrid market in the United States.