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Toyota May Build More to Meet Prius Demand

September 24, 2003|John O'Dell | Times Staff Writer

Toyota's redesigned 2004 Prius gasoline-electric hybrid car won't be for sale at dealerships for nearly a month, but officials at Torrance-based Toyota Motor Sales USA expect their home office in Japan to increase annual production of the popular sedan because of strong orders.

Toyota Motor Corp., which builds the Prius in Japan, initially planned to build 36,000 of the cars in 2004 for worldwide sale. But more than 20,000 Priuses already have been sold, including 11,000 in Japan -- where sales began two weeks ago.

In the U.S., Toyota dealers have 9,400 orders for the $19,995 hybrid, said Don Esmond, senior vice president and general manager of the company's Toyota division.

The best sales year so far for the Prius hybrid was 21,000 units in 2002.

The current generation of the Prius, introduced in Japan in 1997 and in the U.S. in 2000, is a smaller and less powerful car than the 2004 model but is priced the same. Toyota has been selling about 12,000 Priuses a year in the United States.

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