Toyota Motor Corp. boosted production of the Prius gasoline-electric car by a third in April, taking advantage of surging oil prices that boosted demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, according to a report on June 2 in the Bloomberg News. Production of the hybrid cars was raised to 10,000 units a month from 7,500 in central Japan's Aichi prefecture, spokesman Shigeru Hayakawa said in Tokyo. Toyota can make as many as 130,000 Prius a year with overtime, 44 percent more than its earlier production target, Hayakawa said. The $25,000 price tag on a Prius, more than 10 percent higher than a comparable car running on gasoline, is attracting more consumers after regular-grade gasoline prices rose 39 percent on average this year to $2.051 a gallon. Toyota, which has been selling hybrid cars since 1997. Prius sales more than doubled in the first four months of 2004 to 37,396 units due to demand in the U.S. and in Japan, on pace to meet its target of selling 130,000 units this year. The carmaker sold more than 120,000 Prius cars in the last six years. Toyota plans to sell 300,000 hybrid cars globally by 2006. The Prius stayed on dealer lots for an average of just six days in April, the shortest period of any model sold in the world's biggest automotive market, according to a survey by J.D. Power & Associates. The hybrid car is most popular in California. Toyota President Fujio Cho told Bloomberg in June 2003 the company plans to double its hybrid lineup to six models by about 2006, putting the gasoline-electric engines on pickup trucks and its Lexus luxury vehicles. Toyota's Lexus Division will start selling a hybrid version of the RX330 sport-utility vehicle late this year, followed by the hybrid Highlander sports-utility vehicle in early 2005. Toyota expects to sell about 50,000 units in the U.S. this year, up from its initial goal of 34,000, according to John Hanson, a spokesman at Toyota Motor Sales. Surging demand has lengthened the waiting time for U.S. customers to at least three months and up to nine months for the Prius, depending on where the model is sold.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials