Toyota’s iconic Prius, beloved by environmentalists and right-on movie stars, saw its mainstream status well and truly cemented this week following reports from one dealer group that it was the best-selling car in Japan during May.
The figures show that Japan’s attempts to kick-start its flagging economy and car industry may be working – for Toyota at least – with the Prius topping sales charts from the Japan Automobile Dealers Association, having sold about 10,915 cars in May.
Close behind the Prius was Honda’s Fit compact with sales of 8,859 cars, with another hybrid, Honda’s Insight, in third place with 8,183 cars sold.
The Prius’s success was attributed to the release of a new, cheaper model last month retailing at about $3,000 (£1,850) less than the previous model.
However, while Toyota may be enjoying mainstream success in Japan, it is continuing to struggle in the US, where the company has been hit by the slump affecting the entire auto industry.
The world’s biggest automaker said on Friday it was building about 2,300 units of the Prius hatchback per day on four assembly lines at the Tsutsumi plant and a factory belonging to affiliate Toyota Auto Body Co (7221.T).
That is about 1.5 times the pace needed to meet its global sales target in 2010 of 400,000 units for the world’s top-selling hybrid car.
Start of planned production for the Prius at a new U.S. plant in Mississippi has been put on hold indefinitely to save investment costs amid record losses for Toyota.
The third-generation Prius, which went on sale in Japan in mid-May and is now being rolled out gradually in the United States and Europe, already has a waiting list of several months in Japan, where it became the best-selling model in May. [ID:nT228789]