Toyota Motor Corp. takes the wraps off its FT-CH concept dedicated hybrid-electric vehicle at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

A production version of the FT-CH, the CH standing for “compact hybrid,” could be part of a future Prius family of vehicles, the auto maker says.

Toyota confirms it is developing a “marketing strategy” for a Prius family in North America. The auto maker has been kicking around the notion of a Prius brand, based on the success of the nameplate as the best-selling HEV in the world.

“The strategy is still taking shape, and obviously it will require additional models to qualify as a family,” Jim Lentz, president, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. says in a statement. “Among others, the FT-CH is a concept that we are considering.”

Toyota says dealers and customers have been asking for a hybrid smaller than the Prius, something more appealing and affordable for a younger generation of car buyers. Styled at Toyota’s European design center in Nice, France, the FT-CH is 22 ins. (56 cm) shorter in length than the Prius but about the same width, losing “less than an inch (2.54 cm),” Toyota says.

Toyota has set a goal to sell 1 million hybrids globally in the early 2010s, which will necessitate the addition of more HEVs to its lineup.

The auto maker says it is planning eight new hybrid models to achieve its target. The new HEVs will be dedicated hybrids or vehicles that do not currently have a hybrid option.

Toyota also reiterates its intention to offer plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles by the ’12 model, plus a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle by 2015, in global markets.

Early this year, Toyota will place 150 Prius plug-ins into fleets, using Toyota’s first-generation lithium-ion battery.

Toyota’s latest fuel-cell model, the FCHV-advanced, was put into demonstration fleets last year in the U.S., with more than 100 vehicles expected to be tested during a 3-year period.

A “small, urban commuter” EV also is planned for ’12, but the auto maker warns Li-ion battery technology for EVs still is too costly and range remains a concern.

“The cost of lithium-ion batteries needs to be reduced significantly, or a more affordable alternative developed,” Toyota says, adding it expects the challenges of EV technology to be overcome.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com