Honda Fit tops Toyota Prius as Japan's top selling new car

The Honda Fit (Jazz in Australia) has dethroned the Toyota Prius to become the best-selling new car in Japan.
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In January, Honda sold 14,873 Fit vehicles compared with Toyota’s 13,711 Prius sales. Fit sales were up 14 percent over January 2010, while the Prius was down 38 percent.

The result represents the first time the petrol-hybrid Prius has been knocked off the top spot in its domestic market in the past 20 months. January 2011 is the second time the Fit has been the most popular vehicle in Japan, the first coming almost two years ago in March 2009.

A number of factors contributed to the result. Most importantly, the Japanese Government’s green car incentives program ended last September, hurting Prius sales.

Honda also released an upgraded version of the Fit in Japan in October, which included a petrol-hybrid variant. Honda said around half of all Fit sales in January were Hybrid models.

In contrast, the Prius has not been updated since the third-generation vehicle went on sale in May 2009.

Price is also a big factor. The Fit is the cheapest hybrid available in Japan at 1.59 million yen ($19,070), while the Prius is around $5500 more expensive at 2.05 million yen ($24,590).

In related news, Toyota Motor Corp yesterday reported a 39 percent drop in quarterly profit but raised its annual profit forecast.

Toyota said the strength of the yen and the end of government green car incentives in Japan hurt sales in the third fiscal quarter, but said booming sales in Africa, Asia and South America had led to a revised financial year sales forecast from 7.1 million vehicles to 7.48 million.