Prius loses Japan top spot for first time in 20 months
Friday 04 February 2011
Toyota's popular hybrid Prius lost its title as Japan's best-selling vehicle for the first time in 20 months in January, an industry group said Friday.
In January Honda's Fit replaced the Prius as Japan's top seller, a title that the Toyota model had held since May 2009, the Japan Automobile Dealers' Association said in a monthly report.
Toyota sold 13,711 Prius cars, down 38.5 percent from a year earlier, compared with 14,873 Fit cars sold by Honda, up 13.9 percent year-on-year, the association said.
While sales of the Prius began falling year-on-year after a government subsidy program to promote eco-friendly car purchases ended in September, Fit sales have been helped by the introduction of a cheaper hybrid model in October.
The hybrid Fit has a starting price of 1.59 million yen ($19,400), the most inexpensive in Japan among vehicles powered by electric motors and gasoline.
Sales of hybrids have been brisk in recent years because of rising petrol prices and increasing public awareness of global warming.
Japan's overall domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses fell 21.5 percent on-year in January, sliding for the fifth straight month in the absence of government subsidies, the association said.
Competition among carmakers has intensified, with a growing choice of eco-friendly cars on the market.
Nissan Motor Co. has introduced its Leaf electric car and Honda is expected to roll out another Fit hybrid around March as manufacturers race to combine better fuel economy with lower prices.
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