Prius tops Japan car sales
Toyota's Prius topped Japan sales rankings in July for the 15th straight month, getting a perk from incentives for green cars, and helping Japanese sales of Toyota hybrid models reach a million vehicles.
Toyota Motor Corp, the world's biggest automaker, said on Thursday that more than 2.68 million hybrids have been sold around the world so far, a million of them in Japan where buyers are scrambling to buy the popular Prius gasoline-electric hybrid to take advantage of tax breaks and other rebates.
The rush has been so intense that worries are growing that sales of green cars could nose-dive once the government-backed perks run out at the end of September in Japan.
The Prius is Toyota's best-selling hybrid. Cumulative global sales of the Prius hit a million in May 2008, according to Toyota.
The Prius went on sale for the first time in 1997, ahead of rivals as a mass-produced commercially available hybrid. Now Toyota's hybrids span minivans, sport utility vehicles and luxury models.
The success of the Prius is a bright spot for Toyota as it tries to improve a reputation battered by its recall crisis.
Toyota has recalled about 10 million vehicles around the world for a spate of problems such as faulty floor mats, defective gas pedals, steering malfunctions and braking software glitches.
That appeared not to faze the 34,456 buyers in Japan of the Prius, the top brand for July, according to data released Thursday by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.
That was followed by the Honda Fit subcompact at 18,141 vehicles and then by two Toyota models, the Vitz and the Corolla, both compacts, highlighting Toyota's strength in Japan.
Honda's hybrid offering, the Insight, ranked in at a distant No. 22.
Toyota said it sells 9 hybrid passenger vehicle models and three hybrid commercial vehicle models in Japan.
Toyota, which is also working on electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cells, has repeatedly stressed that it is serious about pushing a green strategy through hybrids.
It has said it hopes to sell a million hybrids a year after 2010 although it has not specified the exact year. It wants to introduce a hybrid for every model in its line-up in the 2020's.
On Wednesday, Toyota announced earnings for the April-June period, which underlined a solid recovery from deep losses a year earlier, when global demand for cars was shattered by the financial crisis.