Toyota Hybrid Sales Top One Million Mark

Vehicles were introduced 10 years ago

Toyota Motor Corp. said June 7 that sales of its fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles had topped one million since they were first introduced a decade ago. It took Toyota, which pioneered mass production of the low pollution petrol-electric vehicles along with Honda, eight years to sell its first half million hybrids but less than two years after that to hit the one-million mark. Toyota aims to sell one million hybrids a year by the early 2010.

Toyota first launched the Prius -- the world's first mass-produced hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle -- in Japan in 1997, followed by North America, Europe and elsewhere in 2000. It has since introduced the system to sports utility vehicles (SUVs), mini-vans and other vehicles.

Toyota said it had sold about 1.047 million hybrids across 40 countries as of May 31, including 344,600 in Japan and 702,400 overseas.

Japanese automakers have struggled to keep pace with demand for their petrol-electric hybrids, particularly in the U.S. where interest in fuel-guzzling vehicles has been hit by soaring gasoline prices. But U.S. sales have stagnated just as Toyota ramped up production and the automaker has begun resorting to special deals to attract customers once willing to wait months for a vehicle.

Toyota said that had owners of its hybrids bought petrol-powered vehicles of a similar size and performance instead, an additional 3.5 million tons of greenhouse gas would have been released into the Earth's atmosphere.

Last month Toyota launched what it called its most advanced hybrid vehicle yet -- the latest petrol-electric version of its luxury Lexus.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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