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Toyota Prius world’s third-best-selling car

Electric performance: Toyota’s Prius has not only become synonymous with eco-friendly personal transport, it is now up there with the Corolla and Ford Focus as a volume seller.

Almost 250,000 sales puts Toyota Prius in global top three best-selling cars

30 May 2012

TOYOTA has confirmed its Prius hybrid rose to become the world’s third-most-popular passenger car nameplate with 247,229 sales in the first quarter, which according to a Bloomberg report places it behind the Corolla (300,800) and Ford Focus (277,000).

Figures obtained from Toyota by GoAuto show the 247,229 sales were achieved across the standard five-door Prius hatch (112,624), plug-in hybrid hatch (4640), Prius C light car (70,550) and Prius V people-mover (59,415).

Much of the sales leap is attributed to surging demand in the US and Japan, the latter subject to factory incentives of up to ¥100,000 ($A1277) and similar-sized government tax rebates introduced in December.

Incentives and rebates notwithstanding, the Prius represents a remarkable success story and highlights growing public acceptance of what was until recently a niche product, especially when the nameplate was introduced as a small sedan 15 years ago.

VFACTS figures released today show that Australian sales of the five-door Prius hatch are up 68.4 per cent to the end of May this year, but the local total of just 443 units has little effect on the car’s worldwide success.

The Prius has contributed to an overall 62.9 per cent increase (to 1445 units) in the take-up of privately owned hybrid passenger cars this year – non-private demand has also surged 48.7 per cent, to 2989 sales – as has the related Lexus CT200h, which is up 35.5 per cent with 633 sales YTD.

In April, sales of the light-size Prius C eclipsed those of its larger sibling, with 405 units leaving showrooms in its first month on sale, although Toyota Australia has said it will be limited to a supply of around 200 units per month for the rest of this year.

In May, Toyota recorded 247 new registrations for the Prius C.

No such supply issues should affect the Camry Hybrid, which accounted for 700 of the 1602 Australian-built sedans sold in April – its first full month on the showroom floor. Total Camry sales also climbed 23.4 per cent last month, on 1850 units, with the local mid-sizer now 18.3 per cent ahead of 2011 YTD.

8 center imageFrom top: Toyota Prius C Ford Focus Toyota Corolla.

Meanwhile, 147 sales of Honda’s CR-Z hybrid coupe in Australia have made up for plunging Insight sales, which are down 54.9 per cent to 124 units YTD.

The plug-in version of Toyota’s Prius hybrid – which is on sale in Europe, the US and Japan – is not expected to arrive in Australia until at least 2014, when the next-generation model is expected to emerge.

The Prius C has also been a success in its Japanese home market – where it is called Aqua – and according to Bloomberg it helped Prius family sales more than triple to 175,080 in the first quarter.

Toyota expects the just-launched Prius V people-mover to contribute around 100 sales per month in Australia, with a similar number predicted for the five-door hatch.

In late April, cumulative Toyota and Lexus hybrid sales topped four million units, with the last million achieved in just 14 months.

The company now expects a further million to be achieved this year, up from 630,000 last year.

However, to sustain this growth Toyota must overcome a trend reported in a recent Polk study in the US, which found that 65 per cent of hybrid buyers do not stay with the technology when choosing their next car.

After being dogged by reputation-harming recalls in recent times and natural disasters in 2011, Toyota this year regained world vehicle sales leadership for the first quarter, with 2.49 million units representing an 18.4 per cent rebound.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has said the company is “turning the corner” following the tumultuous recall and natural disaster-related troubles.

In Australia, Toyota’s Camry and Camry Hybrid were awarded first and second places in EcoCar magazine’s EcoCar of the Year awards, based on criteria including fuel efficiency, performance, comfort, refinement and driving enjoyment.

Chief judge and EcoCar managing editor/publisher Chris Mullett said the Camry duo’s success was “determined by an assessment of their fitness for purpose”.

“Both offered identical refinement and engine choices depending on drivers’ needs,” he said.

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