As Gas Prices Rise, Toyota's Hybrid Sales Pass 3 Million

Sales of Toyota's (TM) gas-electric hybrid vehicles have passed 3 million units worldwide, according to Nikkei Business and several other media accounts. The company's Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid car, was introduced in Japan in 1997 and launched in the U.S. in 2001.

Most major car companies have introduced hybrids of their own, but there is no evidence that any of these models have come close to matching the Prius in units sold. By way of comparison, about 12 million cars and light trucks will be sold in the U.S. this year. In China, the world's largest car market, sales should be about 14 million.

Automoblog summed up the success of the Prius: "As expected, the Toyota Prius makes up the lion's share of the brand's hybrid sales. Accounting for 72% of the world sales of Toyota hybrid vehicles, three generations of the Prius popularity is set to gain more product diversity this year when the Prius V and a plug-in hybrid version arrive for sale."

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The Prius's success contrasts with early attempts to market electronic cars. The Prius has the advantage of a price comparable to gas-powered cars. Most electric car models cost more than gas-powered cars of the same size and passenger capacity. There are also concerns about how far an electric car will go without a charge. Auto industry research firm JD Power recently reported that electric car sales will be very slow for the next few years and will only account for 7.3% of all light vehicles sold in 2020.

Toyota's recall and earnings problems, which began 14 months ago, hurt both the company's sales and reputation. But neither seems to have undermined the ongoing rise of the Prius as the dominant alternative energy car in the world.

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