Toyota Prius tops Japan sales for 10th month

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Toyota's Prius hybrid remained the best-selling car in Japan for a 10th straight month in February despite the company's massive safety recalls worldwide, industry data showed Thursday.

The world's biggest automaker sold 27,008 Prius hatchback vehicles at home in February, up almost 500 percent from the same month last year, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.

The success of the petrol-electric hybrid has been pushed by a government incentive campaign in Japan aimed at helping the auto sector recover from recession and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Toyota's Prius stayed in pole position at home as the only hybrid in the top 10, despite a global recall last month to fix its brakes.

The company said it would pull roughly 223,000 Prius and other hybrids in Japan and about 147,500 in the United States, and more in other parts of the world due to a problem with the anti-lock braking system.

However, Toshiki Miyake, an official at the industry body, said the enduring high sales of the Prius likely reflect orders placed by consumers long before Toyota announced its recalls.

"The effects of the recall problem, if any, might show up in future sales," he said.

The brake trouble in Toyota's hybrids came on top of recalls of more than eight million vehicles worldwide due to sticking accelerator pedals that have now been blamed for more than 50 deaths in the United States.

Toyota executives in Washington ended a third marathon hearing before US lawmakers Wednesday over their handling of the safety defects.

In some good news for the company, a Gallup poll in the United States has found that 60 percent of Americans and 82 percent of US Toyota owners believe their vehicles are safe to drive in.

However, more than half said that the Japanese carmaker was too slow to respond to the safety problems, said the USA Today/Gallup poll of more than 2,000 people carried out on February 27 and 28.

"While Americans are generally critical of the company's response to the matter, most believe the company's vehicles are safe and their confidence in the automaker has not been affected," it said.

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