June 22, 2011 / 8:00 PM / in 7 years

UPDATE 2-Statement on Toyota Prius withdrawn by company

(Refiles to show statement was withdrawn by Toyota)

* Prius production in Japan first after quake for Toyota

* Prius U.S. sales up 13 percent through May (Recasts to show that Toyota said press release was issued in error, did not say if facts are in error)

DETROIT, June 22 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said on Wednesday that a news release about increased Prius deliveries to U.S. dealers had been distributed in error by PR Newswire, but the company would not confirm or deny information in the statement.

The statement said that Toyota would deliver 75,000 of its popular hybrid small sedan Prius to U.S. dealerships by the end of the year.

“All we can do now is confirm for you that we will be receiving 36,000 (Prius) over the summer,” said Toyota spokesman Steve Curtis. “The outlook continues to improve. We’re just not in a position to be confirming volume or the time frame (of the deliveries of Prius).”

Many companies typically pay PR Newswire to distribute press statements on their behalf.

Soon after the Toyota statement was issued, PR Newswire published a statement asking clients to “disregard the news release.” PR Newswire declined to comment beyond the statement.

Delivery of Prius cars has been hampered since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. All Prius sold in the United States are imported from Japan.

    The disruption of Prius deliveries to the U.S. market occurred just as consumer interest in fuel-efficient vehicles got a boost from gasoline prices near $4 per gallon.

    Prius is rated at 51 miles per gallon in city driving and 48 mpg on the highway.

    The Prius, introduced in Japan in 1997, went on sale in the United States in 2000 and has sold more than 1 million units, or about half of the global total. U.S. sales last year totaled almost 141,000, slightly up from 2009, and are up 13 percent so far this year.

    More than half of the gasoline-electric hybrids on U.S. roads are Prius, Toyota said earlier this week.

    The Prius was the first Toyota model to resume production after the earthquake. Toyota said that normal production levels of all of its vehicles is expected to resume after July. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Toni Reinhold)

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