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Toyota Prius tops Japan's March auto sales

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[April 20, 2010]  TOKYO (AP) -- Toyota's Prius hybrid was Japan's top-selling car in March for an 11th straight month despite global recall woes, an industry group said Tuesday.

Toyota Motor Corp., reeling after recalls over issues that included braking problems with the Prius, sold 35,546 units of the gas-electric vehicle in Japan last month, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

"The recall woes did not appear to dent demand for the Prius. Despite the recall trouble, the automaker cannot keep up with surging demand for the Prius," said Toshiki Miyake, a spokesman for the association.

Consumers were choosing the Prius with the help of tax breaks and government subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles, Miyake said.

Toyota's Prius was also the top-selling car in Japan in the fiscal year to March 2010, with sales quadrupling from a year earlier to 277,485, the association said.

The Prius, now in its third generation since its 1997 introduction, is the best-selling gas-electric hybrid in the world, with a total of 1.7 million units sold worldwide, according to Toyota. It is so popular in Japan that it has a six-month waiting list.

Rival Honda Motor Co.'s fuel-efficient FIT was in second place in March sales in Japan, with 23,076 units sold, the association said. The FIT also was No. 2 for the fiscal year with sales of 173,154.

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Toyota has been fighting to regain its once-sterling reputation for quality after recalling more than 8 million vehicles worldwide, including more than 6 million in the U.S. alone, due to acceleration problems in multiple models and braking shortcomings in the Prius.

In Washington, the U.S. government accused Toyota of hiding a "dangerous defect" and proposed a record $16.4 million fine Monday for failing to quickly alert regulators to safety problems.

There could be further penalties under continuing federal investigations. The Japanese automaker faces private lawsuits seeking many millions more.

[Associated Press; By SHINO YUASA]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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