Source AP ©

Toyota worldwide hybrid sales hit more than 1 million

Toyota said Thursday global sales of its hybrid vehicles have topped 1 million, a landmark for the Japanese automaker that leads the world in "green" cars.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s cumulative sales of gas-and-electric-powered vehicles totaled 1.047 million as of the end of May. Of those, nearly 345,000 hybrids were sold in Japan, while 702,000 were sold abroad, the company said in a statement.

The Prius is the clear leader, with a total of 757,600 units sold since its 1997 introduction in Japan. Toyota began selling the Prius in North America, Europe and other places in 2000. Last year, the model made up more than 40 percent of hybrid sales in the U.S.

Demand for hyrids, which deliver superior mileage by switching between a gasoline engine and electric motor, has soared amid higher oil prices and greater consumer concern about pollution and global warming.

Toyota offers several other hybrid models, including the hybrid Camry and hybrid Lexus models.

Toyota also began selling its most expensive hybrid, the 15 million yen (US$124,000; euro91,000) Lexus LS 600h recently in Japan. It will be exported over the summer, according to Toyota.

Toyota produces its hybrids in Japan, in China since 2005, and in Kentucky in the U.S. since last year.

But Honda Motor Co. has found that not all hybrids sell well. Earlier this week, Japan's No. 2 automaker said it will discontinue the hybrid version of its Accord sedans. Sales of the Accord hybrid, available only in North America, totaled just 439 last month, while Toyota sold 24,000 Prius cars during the same period.

Last year, Honda said it will stop making the slow-selling Honda Insight hybrid, but Honda is promising a new U.S. hybrid competitor in 2009.

Tokyo-based Honda continues to sell the hybrid Civic, which has sold more than 153,000 since going on sale in 2001 in Japan, Europe and North America.

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