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Toyota is predicting that as much as fifty per cent of its sales will be made up of hybrids by 2020, according to the company's UK managing director Matt Harrison.

Despite being fresh from introducing a brand new BMW sourced diesel motor into its Verso MPV, the Japanese marque is adamant that petrol-electric power is the long-term future of the automobile.

"Diesel popularity is really only a European phenomenon. Despite attempts to increase growth of diesel products in other markets, it simply isn't happening," said Harrison.

With new cars being forced to comply with ever more stringent environmental legislation, he believes that the case for hybrids only gets stronger.

"With the UK primarily concerned with CO2 emissions, diesel is currently proving popular. However, any shift in emphasis to other pollutants such as NOX and particulates would change that," he continued.

"Some markets may skip the wholesale uptake of diesel altogether in favour of cleaner alternatives, including hybrids."

In the UK especially, Toyota is a pioneer in hybrid technology, having introduced the Prius hatchback in the year 2000. Since then, it's hybrid offerings have grown and 20 per cent of all new Toyotas sold here are fitted with a hybrid drivetrain.

The marque's luxury division, Lexus, has committed even more wholeheartedly to the technology, and doesn't even offer a diesel powered model. A whopping 90 per cent of its UK sales are hybrids.

"A lot of the preconceptions that buyers had when hybrids first appeared on the scene are disappearing," explains Harrison.

"Style wise, with hybrid technology now available across a range of models with more mainstream design, buyers don't have to make a statement that their car is a hybrid, should they not want to."

Harrison also says that concerns over the reliability and longevity of the technology have also been largely allayed, even with regards to the batteries technology, which - particularly lithium ion units - have sometimes proved temperamental in other, non automotive applications.

"The battery packs are designed to last the lifetime of the car," he says. "And, in the very remote occurrence of a mechanical failure, buyers will find that a replacement battery pack is cheaper than replacing a diesel particulate filter, for instance."

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