Toyota Prius line becomes top-selling vehicle in Calif.
LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s expanded Prius hybrid lineup has surged past the Honda Accord and Civic, and Toyota Camry, to become the best-selling vehicle line this year in California, the biggest U.S. auto market.
Ford Motor Co.'s F-Series pickup, followed by the Camry, is the perennial U.S. sales leader among light vehicles.
Toyota, the world's largest seller of gasoline-electric autos, sold 46,380 Prius models to California consumers this year through September, according to the California Auto Outlook report, published by the California New Car Dealers Association.
In 2011, the Honda Civic was the top-selling car and light vehicle in California, with retail registrations of 37,475, followed by the Honda Accord, 36,619; Toyota Camry, 36,461; and Prius, 34,129.
Purchases of Prius models this year by Golden State drivers are 25 percent of the 183,340 Prius liftbacks, plug-ins, v wagons and c subcompacts sold in the United States.
Nationwide, the Prius line is No. 8 among the top-selling U.S. cars in 2012.
Recovering car and light-truck sales in California are lifting industrywide sales across the United States, given the size of the state.
Registrations through September are up 26 percent in California, exceeding the 14.5 percent increase for U.S. light-vehicle sales, according to the report.
"Gas prices are up 80 cents per gallon in California over the national average," said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, Calif. "That's really driving up the appeal of hybrids, as well as plug-in vehicles in California."
California drivers bought 1.25 million new cars and trucks this year through September, according to the report. That would be 11 percent of the U.S. total of 10.9 million.
Ford's F-Series remains the best-selling vehicle across the U.S. this year, followed by Camry, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
Disruptions at California refineries since August pushed gasoline in the state to a record $4.67 a gallon on Oct. 9, according to AAA. While prices in the state have eased, the fuel averaged $4.55 a gallon on Oct. 17, compared with a national average of $3.74, based on data from the largest U.S. motorists' group.
"Prius is going to stay strong through 2012, and into 2013," Gutierrez said. "We're going to get some relief at the pump, but not that much."
U.S. Prius sales, already at a record this year, may total as many as 230,000, Toyota U.S. Group Vice President Bill Fay said this month.
Honda Motor Co.'s CR-V is California's best-selling light truck this year, according to the report, prepared by Experian Group Ltd.'s AutoCount unit.
The combination of costlier fuel and new models has boosted U.S. sales of electric-drive autos, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-only models, to a record this year.
Some 373,815 such vehicles were sold through September, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Prius sales are 49 percent of the electric-drive segment, based on Bloomberg's figures.
David Phillips contributed to this reportContact Automotive News