In another sign that Toyota hit a home run with the third-generation Prius hybrid hatchback, the 2010 Toyota Prius was the best-selling car in Japan during 2009.
It beat out the Honda Fit, followed by the Toyota Yaris (known in Japan as the Vitz), as well as its closest hybrid competitor, the new 2010 Honda Insight. Approximately 10 percent of Japanese new-car sales are now hybrid-electric vehicles.
Toyota sold 208,876 Prius models in Japan, more than the 139,682 it sold in the U.S. last year. By comparison, Honda sold only 93,283 of its new Insight (against a meager 20,572 in the U.S., less than half of the predicted number), which ranked # 5 in Japanese sales.
Sales of the 2010 Prius benefited from an ongoing Japanese government program of tax breaks and rebates to encourage sales of the lowest-emission, most fuel-efficient cars. That program has now been extended through September 2010.
At a combined EPA rating of 50 miles per gallon, the new Toyota Prius is the most fuel-efficient gasoline car sold in the U.S. Starting this month, Toyota raised Prius prices by $400 for all models.
Toyota sold a total of 404,000 Prius models globally during 2009, an impressive rise of 41 percent during the worst auto market in decades. Since its introduction in Japan in 1997, more than 1.6 million Prius models have been sold. It first came to the U.S. in 2000.
Constrained by limits on its supply of nickel-metal-hydride battery packs--which give Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system its ability to recover, store, and reuse energy--global demand is strong for the 2010 Toyota Prius, and the cars are in short supply.
That shortage is expected to ease by the end of 2010, as additional battery cell production capacity comes on line. But for now, the 2010 Toyota Prius is clearly a sales success in its home market, as well as in the U.S.