Sunday, 21 February 2010

In Japan, Even a Used Prius Shines

TOKYO—As Toyota Motor Corp.'s best-selling Prius gets caught up in the auto maker's broader quality issues, it can still count on one solid base of support: Japanese drivers who want one now.
It is too early to tell how the brake-system issues Toyota disclosed earlier this month in some Priuses will affect sales of the gasoline-electric hybrid in Japan, where it is the top-selling car. Sales topped 22,300 in Toyota's home country last month, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.
But dealers report demand remains strong for used models of the 2010-model Prius, which is at the center of brake concerns that prompted Toyota to recall more than 400,000 Prius and other hybrid models. That's because car buyers can drive a used Prius off the lot immediately instead of enduring the wait of up to 4½ months for delivery of a new one.

Tokyo-based Gulliver International Co., one of Japan's biggest used-car trading firms, said used 2010-model Priuses continue to sell at prices that are 5% to 10% higher than the same model sold new.
The average price for a used Prius S, one of the basic Prius models released last May, is around 2.4 million yen, or about $26,300, the firm says. The sticker price for a new version of the same model is 2.2 million yen.
Some used models in popular colors such as pearl, black and silver are quoted at even higher prices, between 2.5 million yen and 2.8 million yen, on Gulliver's Web site.
"There are people who decided not to buy Prius out of safety concerns, but everyone is not like that. Some go for a used one so they can drive it immediately," said Shoichi Suzuki, head of research at Gulliver.
Japan Plant Service, a used-car dealer in Hachioji city outside central Tokyo, sells about five second-hand Priuses a month, which account for half of the company's monthly business. Hiroyuki Endo, a employee there, said the pace of 2010 Prius sales hasn't slowed. The company has sold two Priuses so far this month.
Unlike in the U.S., where sales of most Toyota models, including the Prius, have fallen, "It seems customers do not mind. Prius remains the most popular car for our business," said Mr. Endo.
Sellers of the used Priuses are required to make sure the necessary repairs to the braking system are made.
Japanese consumers pay close attention to product sales rankings. When something reaches the No. 1 spot, be it be cars, cosmetics or beverages, a buying frenzy sometimes follows.
The Prius delivery time has been reduced from its peak of eight months. Still, Toyota said Feb. 5 that customers who ordered a Prius after Feb. 3 wouldn't have their vehicle delivered until late June.
Netz Toyota Yokohama, an independent dealer with 31 outlets outside Tokyo, has received four cancellations out of about 100 new Priuses that have been ordered but haven't yet been shipped. The customers who canceled cited the safety issue, said company spokesman Takeshi Kitagawa.
But, he added, "While cancellation is not zero, confusion is much less than we expected. We thought customers would be much more upset given the widespread media reports."
At Exfeel Corp., an independent used-car dealer in the commuter town of Chiba, president Taro Yoshikawa sold some used Priuses this week to other used-vehicle dealers at prices higher than those for brand new ones, indicating that dealers assume that they can still sell Prius at premium prices for some time.
"The popularity of Prius is still strong and I don't anticipate the price [for the used ones] would drop dramatically," he said. "Its popularity is persistent."
Write to Miho Inada at and Mariko Sanchanta at