Toyota Prius Sales Fall

TOKYO (AP) -- Sales of Toyota's Prius hybrid in Japan dropped for the first time in 17 months as government subsidies for green cars expired, an auto industry group said Wednesday.

Despite the lower sales, the gasoline-electric hybrid was the top-selling car in Japan for the 17th straight month in September, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's No. 1 automaker, sold 27,249 Prius cars in September, down 14.2 percent from a year earlier. The figure marked the first year-on-year fall in 17 months, the association said.

Sales of the Prius have been boosted by government subsidies and tax breaks designed to boost demand for green cars. Subsidies ended in early September, but the government has kept tax breaks for energy-efficient cars.

"The Prius remains hugely popular, but its sales tumbled due to the end of green car subsidies. Many consumers put off decisions to buy green cars following the end of government incentives," said association spokesman Toshiki Miyake.

Honda Motor Co.'s Fit compact car came in second in September sales. Honda sold 14,622 of the energy-efficient vehicles, down 15.2 percent from a year earlier. It marked the first year-on-year decline in 13 months.

Honda, Japan's No. 2 automaker, will unveil the hybrid version of the Fit on Friday.

The Prius went on sale for the first time in 1997, beating rivals as the first mass-produced commercially available hybrid car with a total of 1.9 million sold worldwide at the end of July, according to Toyota.

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