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Prius, top-selling car in Japan

Published:Sunday | January 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM

TOKYO (AP):

The Toyota Prius was the top-selling car in Japan last year - the first time a gas-electric hybrid has clinched that spot.

The Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Friday that Toyota Motor Corp's Prius was No 1 in its ranking of sales by vehicle models - with 208,876 Prius cars sold in 2009, nearly three times the numbers sold the previous year.

The big success of the Prius in the home market for Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, highlights the growing consumer acceptance of green vehicles.

Hybrid sales already make up about 10 per cent of new vehicle sales in Japan.

That's huge compared to other global markets, where hybrids are eye-catching but remain a relatively niche product. Green Car Congress, which researches and compiles reports on green technology, said hybrids have a 2.8 per cent share of new vehicle sales in the US.

But car owners around the world may be about to embrace not only hybrids but also plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, which are even greener than the Prius.

The competition in green autos is expected to heighten as new models from other automakers are expected in 2010, including the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle from General Motors Co.

So far, the Prius reigns supreme in Japan.

It easily outsold the No. 2 hybrid, the Honda Insight, at 93,283 for the year, and ranking fifth in overall Japan sales.