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Brand New Toyota Prius

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Tony O'Kane | Aug 13, 2008

Toyota Australia has announced that local sales of its petrol-electric hybrid Prius has passed the 10,000 mark. The milestone car was sold to IT manager David Balkin and council worker Shannon Larkin, a young couple who purchased the hump-backed hybrid to lower their fuel bills.

With petrol prices in Australia hovering around the $1.50-$1.60 mark, the somewhat quirky-looking Prius is now enjoying a steady increase in sales, with Prius customers increasing by 10 per cent for this year alone.

The Prius currently retails in Australia for $37,400 AUD

The shift in consumer focus from petrol-powered cars to hybrid technology is a promising sign for Toyota Australia, who will begin local production of a Camry hybrid in 2010. Given its far more "normal" appearance, we're willing to bet the Camry hybrid should enjoy even more sales success than the Prius, which is admittedly quite, well, ugly.

Despite the pedestrian styling, the Prius has currently sold over one million units worldwide since its Japanese launch in 1997. Toyota has big plans to increase worldwide hybrid sales (including Lexus hybrids) to an ambitious one million units per year. However, if Toyota really wants to generate some interest in the whole hybrid thing, they'd better get cracking on pushing the FT-HS performance coupe into production.

TOYOTA PRIUS' AUSTRALIAN SALES TOP 10,000

A young couple determined to lower their fuel bills and vehicle emissions has bought the 10,000th Toyota Prius to be sold in Australia.

Information technology manager David Balkin and council worker Shannon Larkin said the petrol-electric Prius hybrid supported their lifestyle.

Mr Balkin said he and Shannon tried to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible - and were happy to save on fuel bills at the same time.

"Having a Prius is central to that strategy because we drive a quite a lot," he said.

"With petrol around $1.60 a litre, it costs us about $70 to fill the tank - and we've been getting about 900 kilometres from that without running empty."

The couple was initially surprised that the environmental advantages of Prius came without practical penalties.

"Prius drives exactly like a normal five-seat car. We are delighted at how well it went on our first big drive.

"It powers along steep sections of highway quite effortlessly and it's great around town - although the silent electric motor can be a bit eerie at first.

"I also liked the fact that there's plenty of space in the back. You can fold the back seat right down - and there are plenty of compartments to store our bits and pieces."

Ms Larkin said it was important to support technology that supported other lifestyle choices they had made to reduce carbon emissions.

"It was an easy decision for us to choose a Prius," she said.

With total sales of more than one million, Prius is the world's best-selling hybrid car.

Since Prius was launched in Australia in October 2001, local sales have risen every year - including an increase of 10 per cent so far this year.

Prius is powered by Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, which combines an efficient four-cylinder petrol engine, an electric motor and a battery pack.

Prius can travel for short distances on electric power only. The petrol engine shuts down automatically when the car is stationary or coasting, which saves fuel and cuts emissions.

Prius never has to be plugged in. The hybrid battery is automatically recharged while driving, and Prius also recovers energy from regenerative braking.

Toyota Australia's senior executive director sales and marketing David Buttner said motorists were increasingly attracted to the benefits of hybrid technology.

"Prius has struck a resounding chord with buyers in a climate of volatile fuel prices and increasing environmental accountability," Mr Buttner said.

"Prius owners driving average distances can typically drive for a fortnight before needing to re-fill with petrol - without sacrificing drivability or useability.

"This significantly reduces fuel costs and vehicle emissions compared with a petrol-only car of the same size and performance."

Prius uses just 4.4 litres of regular unleaded fuel to travel 100km* - the best fuel economy of any five-seat car sold in Australia.

It also emits less carbon dioxide than any other vehicle on the market at 106 grams/km.

Toyota Australia recently announced it will build a hybrid Camry at its Altona manufacturing plant in Melbourne from 2010.

Mr Buttner said Toyota will ultimately offer hybrid versions of all its production cars.

"Our global goal is to reach one million hybrid sales per year as soon as possible during the 2010s," he said.

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