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LEAD: Prius breaks record for Japan's annual vehicle sales at 315,669 units.

TOKYO, Jan. 11 Kyodo


Toyota Motor Corp. sold 315,669 Prius gas-electric hybrid cars in Japan in 2010, breaking the nation's annual sales record for a single model for the first time in 20 years, industry data showed Tuesday.

Prius sales rose 51.1 percent over 2009, making it Japan's best-selling vehicle for the second straight year, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.

The previous record was 300,008 unit sales posted by Toyota's Corolla in 1990.

Brisk sales of the Prius are apparently attributable to the government's incentives for the purchase of eco-friendly vehicles and its high fuel efficiency.

Japanese consumers have come to place considerable emphasis on vehicles' eco-friendly credentials and high gas mileage when choosing models, association officials said.

The officials also attributed the healthy sales of the Prius to its relatively affordable retail price, compared with other hybrid vehicles.

The Prius has remained popular among consumers amid the growing consumer preference for fuel-efficient, eco-friendly cars, even after the government ended its subsidy program on Sept. 7.

In the annual ranking of best-selling vehicles, Suzuki Motor Corp.'s WagonR minicar placed second with sales of 195,105 units, followed by Daihatsu Motor Co.'s Tanto minicar at 191,391 units, according to data compiled by the association and the Japan Mini Vehicles Association.

Honda Motor Co.'s Fit compact car was in fourth place with 185,439 units, followed by Daihatsu's Move minicar with 131,859 units.

The sales performances of the top five brands reflect the tendency of a growing number of consumers to opt for affordable vehicles with high fuel economy over luxury models that consume more fuel, they said.

Combined sales of hybrid vehicles in Japan surged 38.2 percent in 2010 to 480,637 units. This means that one in every six passenger cars sold in Japan in 2010 was a hybrid model.

But sales of Honda's hybrid Insight, which ranked eighth in 2009, fell 59.2 percent to 38,080 units, indicating intensifying marketing competition among hybrid models.

In December alone, the Prius topped the sales ranking list with 18,106 units, down 19.9 percent from a year before but placing top for the 19th straight month.

The WagonR was in second place with 14,928 units, up 38.1 percent, followed by the Fit with 14,547 units, up 4.3 percent.

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Publication:Japan Transportation Scan
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jan 18, 2011
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