A Cinderella StoryWhen the first generation Prius was launched over a decade ago, it was a niche product. Most people didn't know what a 'hybrid' car was supposed to be, and potential buyers were very suspicious of the car's reliability and safety. But time changes things, as it always does. Things have evolved, and the Prius is now not only a car, but a whole family of vehicles. There's the 3rd generation Prius, which is the direct heir of the original model, the bigger Prius V, and smaller Prius C, and the Prius PHEV which has lithium-ion batteries that can be plugged in.
Prius sales more than doubled as Toyota extended the name to a four-model “family” of vehicles at the same time that rebates and tax breaks in Japan are saving buyers the equivalent of $2,500 or more. In the quarter, sales soared to 247,230, trailing only Toyota’s Corolla, at 300,800, and Ford Motor Co. (F)’s 277,000 Focus sales.
It helps that the Prius C, which is pictured below, is very popular in Japan (where it is known as the Toyota Aqua).
Aqua has become the car of the moment in Japan, helping more than triple Prius family sales in the country to 175,080 in the first quarter, from 52,507 last year. While funds for the rebates may run out in July if the government doesn’t extend them, the tax reductions continue through 2015.