(Adds background, sales targets for U.S. and Europe)
TOKYO May 13 Toyota Motor Corp said it
had received 25,000 orders for the Prius Alpha hybrid wagon and
minivan models in Japan before sales start on Friday,
underscoring strong demand for fuel-sipping vehicles as gasoline
That is equivalent to more than eight times its monthly
sales target of 3,000 units.
The Prius Alpha is the first of an extended family of Prius
models planned by the world's biggest automaker, and a sales
start had been delayed from April due to production disruptions
after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11. Toyota said
customers will have to wait longer than usual for delivery due
to the ongoing disruption to production.
Rival Honda Motor Co has also postponed sales of
its Fit Shuttle station wagon, which will be available in both
gasoline and gasoline-electric versions, from the initial plan
of March 18.
A Honda spokesman said production of the Fit Shuttle had
started in small lots this week, but that no sales date had been
fixed. Honda stopped taking pre-sale orders for the car after
the quake, he said.
Toyota's Prius Alpha comes in a two-row, five-seater version
and a three-row, seven-seater version. Both get 31.0 km to a
litre of gasoline, about twice the mileage of similarly sized
conventional models, chief engineer Hiroshi Kayukawa told a news
The seven-seater model is Toyota's first mass-produced car
to use a lithium-ion battery. But procuring enough of the
next-generation battery was difficult during the current supply
chain crisis and customers with orders for the model may not be
able to purchase one until next April, when tax incentives for
hybrids are set to expire, Toyota said.
The five-seater version starts at 2.35 million yen
($29,000), while the seven-seater starts at 3 million yen.
Toyota first unveiled the extended Prius family at the
Detroit auto show in January, announcing plans to begin selling
the five-seater version, to be called the Prius v in North
America, this summer. The three-row model will go on sale in
Europe in mid-2012, under the name Prius+. [ID:nN10285824]
Kayukawa said Toyota would initially target monthly sales of
2,000 Prius v's in the United States and 2,000 Prius+'s in
Toyota, the pioneer in hybrid technology, has a goal of
selling at least 1 million hybrid vehicles globally a year by
mid-decade. It plans to offer the hybrid option across its
entire line-up by 2020.
($1 = 80.945 Japanese Yen)
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Chris Gallagher)