2011 marks 3rd straight year for Toyota Prius to be best-selling car in Japan

Article by Anita Panait, on January 16, 2012

The Toyota Prius was again named the best-selling brand in Japan in 2011 after unloading 252,528 units in the country. The gas-electric hybrid’s success is well attributed to the growing environment-friendly attitude of Japanese buyers.  Helping catapult the Prius into the crown was its wagon version, the Alpha, which posted a solid performance after its roll out in May.

Toyota also showed it is not ready to give up the brand’s crown this year, as it launched the Prius c at the Detroit Auto Show. The Prius c, with the “c” standing for city, is more compact and affordable variant marketed to young city drivers.

It will roll out in March 2012. Rounding up the top three in 2011 was Honda Motor Co.'s Fit, up from fourth in 2010, with 207,882 units, and Suzuki Motor Corp.’s Wagon R minicar with 160,439 units.

However, total car sales in Japan in 2011 were down 20%, mainly due to component supply problem as cause by the March earthquake and tsunami. Total sales would have been worse if foreign carmakers did not increase their imports in 2011.

Foreign cars posted a 10% increase in Japan sales in 2011. Local carmakers also did their share by importing vehicles from plants outside of Japan, increasing the total sales of imported cars by 22% to 275,644 units.

Even as Toyota continues to introduce the full hybrid technology to new segments in the market like with the Yaris Hybrid and the Auris Hybrid, it is still the Prius that first comes to mind when talking about the brand’s hybrid powertrain design.

This is because when it comes to technological innovation, Prius continues to lead and proof of this is that every time a new generation of this model comes out, it includes new technological features that are considered ahead of its time. Take for example the third generation Prius. Officially launched back in 2009, it had the Head-up Display that could project important information on the windscreen’s base.

Types of information include the Eco Drive Monitor and the vehicle speed. The system can even show the stats of the Active Cruise Control system and the Pre-Crash Safety, though these features themselves are optional. Thus for the new Prius, it not only has a redesigned exterior with sensorial quality of the interior improved, the instrumentation was improved as well and a wide selection of advanced navigation and multi-media systems are included.

These include systems like the Toyota Touch, Toyota Touch Pro, and Toyota Touch & Go Plus. The new Prius comes with the Pre-Crash Safety system and with the Adaptive Cruise Control integrated to the system, predicts the possibility of collisions occurring and activating the needed intelligent safety systems. This is made possible by having sensors that are placed beneath the grille in the front area.

Thus should a possible collision be detected, the seatbelts are immediately pre-tensioned while the audible Brake Assist alarm is activated. If the system determines that the collision cannot be avoided, it triggers automatic braking. This reduces the possible impact and damages should a collision occur. There is also a Touch Tracer display switch that has been mounted on the steering wheel.

With this, the driver can manage the various features like ECO Drive Monitor, audio system, and air-conditioning, to name a few. All of these are made possible without the need to remove one’s hand away from the steering wheel or even look down. Another new technological feature is the Intelligent Parking Assist which allows the Prius to instantly move to a selected parking spot.

By combining a rearview camera with ultrasonic sensors, the system is able to determine what steering movements are needed in order to move in reverse to the parking space. All the driver needs to do is simply manage the speed of the vehicle.

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