Toyota Motor Corp. plays catch-up with competitors by announcing it will retail an “urban-commuter battery-electric vehicle” in 2012.

The No.1 Japanese auto maker follows General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in announcing plans to retail electric-powered vehicles.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. spokeswoman Amy Taylor says it hasn’t been determined which markets will get the as-yet-unnamed EV. Nor are there details on what the vehicle will look like.

However, Toyota at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Sunday will display an electric-vehicle concept, called the FT-EV, which is built on the same platform as the auto maker’s tiny iQ A-segment car sold in Europe and Japan.

In photos provided to the media, the exterior of the FT-EV features bird, leaf and flower-shaped gold decals over its white paint. It also has gold-tinted headlights and taillights, as well as gold-trimmed wheels. The interior is shown in white with gold accents.

“Toyota’s FT-EV concept imagines an urban dweller, driving up to 50 miles (80 km) between home, work and other forms of public transportation, such as high-speed rail,” the auto maker says. The FT-EV is a “pure concept (but) represents a natural pairing of product strategies.”

However, Toyota also restates that gas-electric hybrid vehicles remain its “long-term core” powertrain focus. In order to achieve its goal of selling 1 million hybrids annually sometime early next decade, the auto maker will launch globally “as many as 10 new hybrid models” early next decade.

Included are the next-generation Prius and all-new Lexus HS 250h, both of which will be unveiled in Detroit this week and go on sale in the U.S. this year.

Toyota also says it is moving up the introduction date of its plug-in hybrids for fleet use to 2009 from 2010. The auto maker later this year will begin delivering 500 Prius PHVs powered by lithium-ion batteries, 150 of which are allotted for the U.S.

The first-generation Li-ion batteries will come from Toyota’s 60/40 joint-venture with Panasonic Corp., called Panasonic EV Energy Co. Ltd.

Toyota says the ’10 Prius has been engineered to take either a Li-ion battery pack with plug-in capability or a conventional nickel-metal hydride battery in the gas-electric version. Customers leasing the plug-in Prius will be askedto monitor the car’s performance and battery durability.

Toyota calls the fleet-demonstration program “a key first step in confirming how and when we might bring large numbers of plug-in hybrids to global markets.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com