Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Monday, 30 January 2006

Japan forges US toilet revolution

Traditional toilet seat
Toto wants to replace traditional toilet seats in the US

Toto, the Japanese company behind luxury heated toilet seats, is to open a factory in Mexico in a bid to keep up with surging demand in the US.

Toto said the move would help it lift sales of its Washlet toilet seat, which transforms into a warm water-spraying bidet at the touch of a button.

The hi-tech seat provides an "invigorating and revitalizing bathroom experience", the company boasts.

Toto said the new factory would be able to make 400,000 seats a year by 2008.

'Sanitary earthenware'

"We have not been able to meet the growing market demand and we export most of our products for the US market from other Toto group factories," the company said.

"The new factory in Mexico will double production capacity for our sanitary earthenware in North America, strengthening our production plan which will allow us to meet the market demand flexibly."

The Washlet's appearance in a growing number of bathrooms across the US is in essence a return home for the heated toilet seat and bidet technology.

The system was originally created by a company in the US for the elderly and people with disabilities, before the patent was bought by Toto of Japan in the late 1960s.

Toto says it has since sold more than 17 million Washlet seats worldwide.

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