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Honda Motor Co.’s low-priced Insight hybrid hatchback was Japan’s best-selling vehicle in April with monthly sales of 10,481 units, becoming the first hybrid car to take the No. 1 slot, an industry body said Monday.

It is the first time for monthly sales of the five-door, gasoline-electric hybrid to top 10,000 since the Insight hit the market Feb. 6, according to data compiled by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

Despite a severe slump in global auto sales, Honda has seen booming sales of the Insight. It has a sticker price of ¥1.89 million, lower than Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid.

The Prius slipped to 21st place, with April sales down 64.2 percent year on year ahead of the release of a third-generation model later this month.

Eyeing competition with Honda, speculation is rife that Toyota will limit the price of the new Prius to ¥2.05 million, compared with ¥2.33 million for the current model.

Sales of environmentally friendly cars are expected to increase thanks to new tax breaks and subsidies the government is introducing for the purchase of hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars.

In the April best-seller list excluding minicars and imported cars, the Honda Fit ranked second with sales of 9,443 units, down 36.4 percent from the year before, and the Toyota Vitz came in third with sales of 6,706 units, down 26.3 percent.

The Toyota Corolla finished fourth with sales of 6,341 units, down 40.0 percent, followed by the Wish at 5,556 units, up 77.3 percent, and Passo at 5,545 units, up 8.9 percent.

Sales of imports dip

Sales of imported motor vehicles, including those made by Japanese carmakers overseas, dropped 30.5 percent in April from a year earlier to 11,348 units — a 21-year low for the month — as consumers continued to refrain from spending, an industry group said Monday.

The sales drop has lasted 12 straight months, reaching about one-third of the level of April’s sales peak in 1996, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association.

The year-on-year rate of decline widened from 26.8 percent in March as sales in April last year got a boost from a temporary reduction in the tax on car purchases.

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