• The Associated Press

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Toyota’s Prius hybrid was Japan’s top-selling car in March for the 11th straight month despite massive recall woes, an industry group said Tuesday.

Toyota Motor Corp., reeling after recalls over issues that included braking problems with the Prius, sold 35,546 units of the gas-electric vehicle in the domestic market last month, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

“The recall woes did not appear to dent demand for the Prius. Despite the recall trouble, the automaker cannot keep up with surging demand for the Prius,” said Toshiki Miyake, a spokesman for the association.

Consumers were choosing the Prius with the help of tax breaks and government subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles, Miyake said.

The Prius was also the top-selling car domestically in the fiscal year that ended in March, with sales quadrupling from a year earlier to 277,485, the association said.

The Prius, also the world’s top-selling hybrid, has been so popular in Japan it has a six-month waiting list.

Toyota has been fighting to regain its once-sterling reputation for quality after recalling about 8.5 million vehicles around the world due to acceleration problems in multiple models and braking shortcomings in the Prius.

Rival Honda Motor Co.’s fuel-efficient Fit was in second place in March sales, with 23,076 units sold, the association said. The Fit also was No. 2 for the fiscal year with sales of 173,154.

S. Korea orders recall

SEOUL (Kyodo) South Korea’s transport ministry ordered Toyota Motor Korea Co. on Tuesday to recall about 13,000 cars due to defective parts.

Subject to the recall are 12,984 vehicles of three models — the Lexus ES350, Camry and Camry Hybrid — whose floor mats could hamper the safe operation of the accelerators, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said in a statement.

The affected vehicles are eligible to receive free repairs at Toyota’s service centers starting April 19, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Hisao Nakabayashi, president of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Korean unit, apologized for the recall.

“I hereby express my sincere apologies for causing inconveniences and worries to customers (in South Korea),” Nakabayashi said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

While the number of Toyota cars affected by the recall in South Korea is relatively minor given the roughly 8.5 million vehicles recalled worldwide, local media and consumer groups have criticized the automaker’s Korean unit for its slow response to the problem, Yonhap said.

Toyota sales of its Lexus sedan in South Korea dropped 45.9 percent to 320 in February, Yonhap said, citing industry data.

Imported cars slip

Kyodo News

Sales of imported vehicles in Japan, including those made at overseas plants of Japanese carmakers, shrank 7.8 percent in fiscal 2009 to a 21-year low of 183,677 units, an industry body said Tuesday.

The figure marked the second year in a row that sales stayed below 200,000 units.

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