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Old 06-10-2007, 01:00 PM
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Arrow 'Iconic' Prius puts Toyota hybrid sales on top


1 Million Toyota Hybrids on the road

The Prius, the ninth best-selling U.S. car last month, sold more than 24,000 vehicles in May, outpacing all other hybrids combined. One analyst says Toyota could sell 244,000 of the cars a year.

Record gasoline prices drove hybrid-electric cars and trucks to a new level of popularity in May, but the majority of those sales went to just one automaker -- Toyota Motor Co.

As hybrid sales jumped to 45,000 vehicles -- their highest monthly total ever -- Toyota captured 80 percent of all new hybrid customers, according to a Detroit Free Press analysis. While other automakers reported sizable increases in hybrid sales, Toyota saw sales of its hybrid Prius more than double from a year earlier.

With sales of 24,009 vehicles - more than all other hybrids combined -- the Prius was the ninth top-selling U.S. model in the industry for May, outselling mass-market names such as the Nissan Altima, Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Cobalt.

The only car model from a Detroit automaker that outsold the Prius last month was the Chevrolet Impala.

Industry experts say the Prius' success shows that hybrid technology may need some new marketing tricks to win broad acceptance among consumers still wary about its higher costs.

"It has become sort of an icon for hybrids, and for environmentally friendly vehicles," said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis with J.D. Power & Associates. "If you have a Prius, it's clear to everyone you're driving a hybrid."

Other automakers already appear to be adapting the lessons of the Prius. Honda Motor Co. said Monday it would halt sales of its slow-selling Honda Accord hybrid this fall when a redesigned Accord goes on sale. The automaker has said its next hybrid vehicle will be a Prius-like model that doesn't compete directly with any other vehicle in its lineup.

Toyota has made several moves in the past few months to boost Prius sales, raising production at its factory in Japan by 50 percent. That allowed Toyota to set a sales target of 150,000 Priuses this year, up from 106,971 last year. Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong said the increased production had helped ease demand that left Priuses rare in some markets, allowing dealers to have a few models to offer customers rather than just one or two.

The automaker had offered some incentives on the Prius earlier this year to offset the declining amount of federal tax incentives, which will stop for Priuses sold after September, and thrown in options at no cost.

"You can't help but see how much less you'd be paying for what looks like the identical vehicle," Libby said.

Source: [url=http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070610/BUSINESS/706100331/1003]The News Journal[/url]
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