MARK RECHTIN

All the good Prius news that's fit to retract

Mark Rechtin is West Coast editor of Automotive NewsMark Rechtin is West Coast editor of Automotive News
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LOS ANGELES – On Wednesday, PR Newswire issued a press release with some good, heartening news for Toyota and its U.S. dealers.

Boatloads of Toyota Prius hybrids will be on the way by the end of the year. It appears Toyota's earthquake recovery is well underway.

When I contacted Toyota with a follow-up question, their public relations staff called back in a frenzy. The release was not supposed to have been issued.

PR Newswire issued an instant "KILL KILL KILL" retraction online, indicating journalists and other readers should disregard the news release and that it was "issued in error 22-Jun-2011 by PR Newswire."

We called some dealers to see if they had heard anything new about Prius deliveries. Nothing.

The release is nowhere to be found on PR Newswire anymore. But if you are curious, there are scads of other online sources that printed the release verbatim, about the 75,000 Priuses due to arrive on U.S. shores by the end of the year.

The genie is out of the bottle.

Toyota dealers had fewer than 3,000 Priuses in stock as of June 1. That's less than a 10-days supply. Dealers are screaming for Priuses amid high gas prices. In a good month, they can sell 25,000 units. Prius sales peaked in 2007, with 181,221 units sold, which averages out to about 15,000 a month.

And it appears that Toyota is giving dealers what they want.

Toyota has already promised U.S. dealers they'll receive 36,000 Prius units this summer, so it's not hard to deliver some 75,000 by the end of the year.

Was the release inaccurate? Don't buy it for a second.

The statement included a quote from Toyota Division boss Bob Carter. It also included a photo of Prius models rolling off a cargo ship in Long Beach, Calif., from Japan. A Toyota spokesperson says the automaker won't comment further on the matter, but adds Prius supplies will continue to get better.

Toyota is having its national dealer meeting next week in Las Vegas. This is news they likely wanted to save for the opening night's cocktail hour, to start the evening with a bang.

After the past 18 months – when the news was largely out of Toyota's control -- this is one piece of news Toyota would love to tell its dealers first.

Except PR Newswire jumped the gun.

Don't be surprised to see this release re-released next Tuesday.

You can reach Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@crain.com. -- Follow Mark on Twitter

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