Toyota Prius tops Japan sales despite recall woes

TOKYO: Toyota's Prius remains the top-selling car in Japan despite the automaker's global recall woes that included braking problems with the hit hybrid.

More than 27,000 of the gas-electric hybrids were sold in February, making the Prius the best selling model for the 10th straight month, according to Japan Automobile Dealers Association figures released Thursday.

The continued popularity of the Prius comes despite Toyota's recall debacle affecting 8.5 million vehicles around the world, including the third-generation Prius in Japan, recalled for a glitch in antilock braking.

Sales of the Prius have been boosted by its reputation for delivering superb mileage by switching between a gasoline engine and electric motor as well as tax breaks and other government incentives.

The Prius, also the world's top-selling hybrid, has been so popular in Japan that it has a big backlog of orders, with a waiting list lasting about six months.

But Toyota officials have acknowledged some people canceled their orders since the recall. Toyota began offering new software to fix the braking problem since last month.

Toyota's handling of the quality lapses, which emerged in the U.S. last year, has received widespread media attention in its home market but loyalty to Toyota remains relatively strong because the other defects behind the recalls — sticky gas pedals and faulty floor mats — have not affected any models sold in Japan.

In Japan, Honda Motor Co.'s Fit subcompact was second in sales in February at nearly 14,000, followed by three of Toyota's smaller models, the Vitz, Passo and Corolla.

There have been no high-profile accidents or drivers complaining publicly of unintended acceleration in Japan, as there have been in the U.S., where Toyota's once stellar reputation for quality is getting hammered.

Toyota U.S. sales for February dropped a smaller-than-expected 9 percent year-on-year, according to data released Tuesday. Toyota is offering zero-percent financing on most models this month plus two years of free maintenance to returning customers in the U.S.

Other automakers, including U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor of South Korea, saw U.S. sales recover from February 2009, when demand was hurt by the recession.