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September 5, 2009

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Prius hybrid tops sales in Japan

TOYOTA'S hugely popular Prius was Japan's best-selling car in August, keeping the top spot for the fourth consecutive month with the help of government subsidies and tax breaks, an auto industry group said yesterday.

The Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Toyota Motor Corp, the world's biggest car maker, sold 21,669 Prius cars in the month. Honda Motor Co's Fit compact was No. 2 in August with 10,927 units sold.

"Government measures such as subsidies and tax breaks really helped lift sales of hybrid and energy-efficient cars," said Toshiki Miyake, a spokesman for the association. Although the Fit is not hybrid, consumers can enjoy lower taxes because the vehicle is energy-efficient, he said.

"More consumers are turning to hybrid and compact eco-friendly cars rather than large, gas-gazzling vehicles," Miyake said.

But compared to July's numbers, August sales of the Prius fell 22 percent and those of the Fit slid 36 percent. Miyake said a drop in sales was due to seasonal factors such as dealer holidays, and did not suggest a drop in demand. Toyota's Vitz subcompact, which is marketed overseas as the Yaris, came third in August auto sales, the association said.

Honda's Insight hybrid, a direct competitor with the Prius, was No. 4 in August, selling 7,900 models, down 23 percent month on month.

Japan's overall auto sales in August rose for the first time in 13 months to 198,265 units, the association said this week, citing tax breaks and subsidies to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles.


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