LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. expects U.S. supplies of its top-selling Prius to recover to about 70 percent of normal levels next month after output was disrupted by Japan's record earthquake.
Toyota's U.S. unit should get at least 36,000 Prius cars to sell in June, July and August, or about 12,000 a month, said Bob Carter, group vice president for U.S. sales.
The figure could grow if production in Japan rebounds at a faster pace, he said. Supply in the next three months will be "in the 60 percent to 70 percent range," Carter said at a briefing in Half Moon Bay, Calif. "It's much improved."
Increasing supply would help the automaker take advantage of rising demand for the gasoline-electric model amid higher fuel prices.
Toyota said early this year it might set a U.S. sales record for the Prius, before the 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 damaged parts factories and power plants, disrupting auto production and leaving U.S. dealers with little or no inventory.
U.S. gasoline cost an average of $3.926 a gallon on May 17, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge website. That's up 28 percent from Jan. 1.
Even so, this month's U.S. Prius sales may decline from a year ago because of the supply shortage, Carter said in an interview, without elaborating.
"If I had twice as many Priuses, we'd be selling twice as many," he said.
The company will get cars to people who want them, though it's going to take a little while, Carter said.
"We have allocation right now, just no inventory," said Bob McGlone, general manager of Tansky Sawmill Toyota, a dealership in Dublin, Ohio. "I'm taking orders every day for the car. It's, 'Ma'am, I'll put you on the list, but it may be a year before we can get your Prius.'"