Toyota sets Prius sales record on bigger lineup, gas prices
LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. sales of Prius hybrids reached a record in March and in the first quarter, propelled by higher gasoline prices and two new models.
Toyota, the largest seller of gasoline-electric autos, sold 28,711 units in March of the Prius "family" now comprised of a plug-in Prius and c subcompact, along with the original hatchback and v wagon. The previous monthly best for Prius was May 2007, when it delivered 24,009 units.
The fast start for the world's top-selling alternative powertrain car keeps Toyota on track to meet a goal of 220,000 Prius sales in the U.S. this year, up from 136,463 in 2011. The vehicle accounts for half of U.S. hybrid sales, and a shortage of the car last year due to Japan's earthquake and tsunami cut industrywide deliveries to about 273,000 units from about 275,000 a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
"At this pace, and with the recovery in the U.S. economy, Toyota's target for Prius sales looks fairly doable," said Takashi Aoki, senior fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.
"Toyota's move to raise the price of their bigger Prius models is a good sign that the company is trying to make the models more profitable, too," Aoki said, citing the carmaker's price increase of its Prius wagon version.
Hybrid sales typically track the cost of gasoline, rising in line with pump price increases. Regular grade gasoline cost an average of $3.93 a gallon on April 1, up from $3.28 at the end of last year, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge.
"Fuel economy remains a top purchase consideration among consumers, and we are pleased with the continued response to Toyota's lineup," , Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice president of U.S. sales, said in an e-mail on Monday.
Prius and the Prius c are rated as delivering an average of 50 miles (80 kilometers) per gallon in combined city and highway driving by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Prius v wagon averages 42 mpg and the plug-in Prius, able to go as far as 15 miles on electricity alone, is rated as getting 95 mpg- equivalent when drivers frequently recharge the lithium-ion battery pack, according to the EPA.
First-quarter Prius sales surpassed 57,000, based on the company's estimate for March. The model's best previous quarter was April-June 2007, said Celeste Migliore, a spokeswoman for the company's U.S. sales unit in California.