Tokyo: Toyota Motor Corp. got 180,000 orders for the new Prius hybrid in Japan in just a month, far surpassing its target of 10,000 vehicles in monthly sales, the automaker said on Friday.
The third-generation Prius, which rolled out a month ago, has been a big hit here, partly because of tax-breaks and other new government incentives that are meant to perk growth during the nation’s downturn.
The Prius was the No.1 selling vehicle in Japan for May, clinching the top spot in the domestic market for the first time and overtaking Honda’s new hybrid, the Insight, which fell to third after taking the top spot in April.
Competition in the hybrid vehicle market has intensified after the Insight debuted in February in Japan at $19,700. Toyota is offering its new Prius at just over $20,900, about $3,100 cheaper than the previous model. The upgrade has a larger 1.8-litre engine but gets better mileage than the older one.
Strong hybrid sales are a rare bright spot for Japan’s automakers, which have been battered by the global slowdown, a strengthening yen and the US credit crunch.
Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, which also makes the Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models, recorded its worst loss in its seven-decade history for the fiscal year ended March.
In Japan, hybrids are now tax-free, delivering savings of about $1,500 for a Prius buyer. Other fuel-efficient models qualify for lower savings.
Also helping is a “cash-for-clunkers” program similar to the plan initiated by President Barack Obama, which offers vouchers worth up to $4,500 for a gas-guzzler turned in for a new car in the US.
In Japan, people who trade in a car 13 years or older get a $2,500 rebate for buying an ecological model. Those without a trade-in get $1,000.
Toyota is also continuing to sell the old-style Prius in Japan at the same price as the Insight. That’s relatively unusual as manufacturing of old models is usually discontinued with the arrival of the new model. Those sales numbers aren’t included in Friday’s orders number from Toyota.