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Toyota Prius tops Japan’s April auto sales

SHARE Toyota Prius tops Japan’s April auto sales

TOKYO — Toyota's Prius ranked as Japan's top-selling car in April, clinching the No. 1 spot for the 12th straight month despite a recall of the hybrid vehicle for braking problems.

Toyota Motor Corp. sold 26,482 of the gas-electric cars in Japan last month, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Tuesday.

The world's top automaker is battling to salvage its reputation overseas after being battered by massive recalls of top-selling models including the Prius.

The recall crisis had almost no impact on Prius sales in Japan, said Michiro Saito, an association official.

"Consumers continue to want the Prius despite the recall problem. The vehicle remains hugely popular due to energy efficiency and reasonable prices," said Saito.

Tax breaks and government subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles like the Prius also helped boost demand for the hybrid car.

The Prius, now in its third generation since its 1997 introduction, is the best-selling hybrid in the world, with a total of 1.74 million sold, according to Toyota. The vehicle is so popular in Japan that it has a six-month waiting list.

Rival Honda Motor Co.'s fuel-efficient FIT was in second place in Japan's April sales with 12,222 sold, the association said.

Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide since November, including more than 6 million in the U.S. alone, due to acceleration and braking problems.

Toyota paid a record $16.4 million U.S. government fine last month because of a four-month delay in telling authorities about defective gas pedals.

Doubts about the safety of Toyota's cars could intensify again as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday launched a new probe into Toyota's recalls in 2005 over steering-wheel defects.

Toyota is to announce its earnings for the fiscal year to March 2010 later Thursday.