It's been a tough couple of years for Toyota.

First was the entire sudden-acceleration mess, along with multiple recalls covering almost 10 million cars.

Then came the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated Toyota's intricate global network of parts and assembly plants.

But with a return to full production now moved up to September from the end of the year, the company says that sales of its crucial Prius hybrid will be better than ever for 2012.

So if you're planning on buying a Prius, wait a few months and you'll have no problem.

2011 Toyota Prius

2011 Toyota Prius

Right now, today, though? Maybe not so good. The company is essentially out of stock on the popular Prius hybrid, because of production stoppages and slowdowns due to earthquake damage.

June sales of Prius models fell by almost two-thirds, to the lowest number delivered in more than six years.

While the company sold its millionth U.S. Prius in April--and its two-millionth globally last October--one- and two-year used Prius models are reportedly fetching as much or more as their purchase price on the used-car market.

Prius shortages first cropped up in 2009, after an all-new 2010 Prius was released early in the year and demand had risen after the gas-price surge of 2008.

With this spring's soaring gasoline price, gas mileage is on many consumers' minds. And at an EPA combined fuel-efficiency rating of 50 mpg, the 2011 Toyota Prius is the single most fuel-efficient vehicle sold in the U.S. 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

If Prius production returns to normal volumes by September, the new stocks should reach dealers late this year. That means that shortages should start to ease early next year.

Toyota expects Prius sales to rise next year not only due to demand for the mainstay five-door hatchback, but because additional Prius models will hit the showrooms.

The 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon will start to arrive sometime this fall, a slight delay from the original summer on-sale date.

And there are more Priuses to follow, including the 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid that will go on sale by June 2012, plus a compact-size Prius model previewed by the Prius C concept at January's Detroit Auto Show.



Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.