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Never Fear, More Priuses Will Be Here! Or Not. It Depends

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2011 Toyota Prius

2011 Toyota Prius

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If you want to buy a new 2011 Toyota Prius hybrid these days, you may have to scramble.

Supplies are down to 3,000 units, which is less than 10 days' worth of sales.

In auto industry terms, that means "sold out," and dealers are charging higher markups on the few precious Priuses they still have.

75,000 coming ... or not?

Two days ago, Toyota issued--and then hastily retracted--a press release saying that 75,000 new Prius models would arrive in the States by the end of this year.

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

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The company had already promised its dealers 36,000 of the world's popular hybrid over the course of this summer.

Prius sales, which average 15,000 a month and have hit 25,000 cars a month when gas prices are high, fell by more than half in May as supplies dried up.

The short supplies are due to the combination of steadily rising gas prices and the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami that severely damaged large portions of Japan's industrial infrastructure.

'Issued in error'

The Wednesday release, said PR Newswire, was "issued in error" and should be disregarded by journalists.

But Toyota executive Atsushi Niimi, who oversees the company's entire global production, said recently in Japan that Prius production was fully back up and running.

In fact, he said, it was running at "more than 100 percent," a neat trick indeed.

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

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In other words, Toyota is now busily building 2011 Prius hybrids as fast as the factories can spit components and cars out the doors. But they'll take time to reach U.S. dealers.

Priuses are shipped by sea (on a unique cargo ship recently retrofitted with a diesel-hybrid powertrain).

They take months to travel from the Japanese factory to U.S. dealer lots.

Postpone if possible

So if you're interested in buying a Toyota Prius, we strongly suggest you try to postpone your purchase until the autumn. Stocks should be rebuilding then.

Because it's the most fuel efficient non-plug-in car sold in the U.S. (with a combined EPA gas-mileage rating of 50 mpg), Prius sales vary quite directly with gas prices.

While gasoline costs have started to fall from their recent $4-per-gallon highs, buyers are still aware of gas mileage ratings and likely to look more closely at the Prius.

If it's available, that is.

Meanwhile, the 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon that was scheduled to arrive at dealerships late this summer will arrive sometime this fall.

[Automotive News, Automotive News (subscription required)]

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