• Kyodo News


Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid was the best-selling car in the nation in May after chalking up monthly sales of 10,915 units, an industry body said Thursday.

It is the first time the Prius has topped the list, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said. The figure is cumulative for both the original Prius and the fully remodeled version, but excludes minivehicles and imports.

Toyota Motor Corp. rolled out the latest version of the Prius in mid-May after rival Honda Motor Co.’s Insight gave it fierce competition.

Honda Motor’s Insight hybrid hatchback, which in April became the first hybrid to top the best-seller list, fell to third in May with 8,183 units sold.

The Insight was edged by Honda’s Fit compact, with monthly sales of 8,859 units, the association said.

With hybrids occupying two of the top three slots, the list shows fuel-efficient hybrid cars are growing more popular.

The popularity of the Prius stems from its relatively low price and fuel efficiency, association officials said.

“With the emergence of the Insight hybrid at a price of ¥1.89 million for the low-end model, prices for hybrid cars are falling and they are becoming more affordable for consumers,” one official said.

The latest Prius model accounted for more than 90 percent, or 10,196 units, of Toyota’s May sales.

The previous best monthly sales for the Prius had been in March 2008, at 7,680 units.

Prices for the latest, third-generation Prius start at ¥2.05 million, or nearly ¥300,000 lower than the lowest-end model. The revamped car has a larger 1.8-liter engine and achieves a fuel efficiency of 38 km per liter, an improvement of around 7 percent over the previous model.

The Prius also got a lift from government tax breaks for less-polluting cars.

Since the first-generation Prius was launched in 1997, Toyota has sold over 1.25 million hybrids worldwide.

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