DETROIT – The U.S. auto industry, intent on playing catch up, may not like to hear it, but when it comes to hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) the Japanese are king of the mountain – albeit a small mountain. And Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. are driving innovation, while establishing a de facto standard for operation. Since launching the Prius in December 1997, Toyota has sold more than 361,000 HEVs, including 134,000 in 2004. Through March of this year, Honda had sold nearly ...

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