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Popular gas-hybrid remains Japan’s top-selling car

(TOKYO-Relaxnews) – The hugely popular Prius gas-electric hybrid was the best-selling car in Japan again in 2011, with the Toyota Motor Corp. vehicle holding the top spot for the third straight year.

A total of 252,528 units of the Prius were sold over the year, thanks in large part to the growing environment-friendly attitude among Japanese consumers. The brand’s sales were assisted by solid sales of the Prius Alpha, a wagon version of the car that first hit the streets here in May.

And Japan’s largest car company is aiming to hang on to the top spot in the year ahead, unveiling the Prius c at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Tuesday.

The 2012 Toyota Prius C hybrid is introduced during a press preview at the North American International Auto Show at the COBO Center January 10, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. ©Bill Pugliano/Getty Images/AFP

The car — the “c” stands for city — is a more compact, nimble and affordable version of the Prius that is designed for young city residents and will go on sale in March.

Honda Motor Co.’s Fit was second on the best-seller list with 207,882 units, up from fourth spot in the previous year’s rankings, while the Wagon R minicar by Suzuki Motor Corp. was third with sales of 160,439 units.

Total sales of all cars over the entire calendar year were down by 20 percent, however, primarily because domestic manufacturers’ supply chains for components were crippled by the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami in north-east Japan.

To make up for the shortfall, overseas car makers increased their imports into Japan and total sales of foreign cars surpassed 10 percent for the first time ever in 2011.

Sales of new imported vehicles, including those made by Japanese firms at their production facilities overseas, were up more than 22 percent in 2010 to 275,644 units.

Of the foreign brands, Volkswagen was the most popular for the 12th straight year, selling 50,635 units, an increase of 8.4 percent. The other top performers from overseas were BMW, which sold 34,195 cars, up 5.5 percent, and Mercedes-Benz.

JR

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