Toyota claims the plug-in version of its Prius has made a stronger sales start in the United States than the rival Chevrolet Volt and full-electric Nissan Leaf, selling more than 6000 vehicles in its first six months on the market.

It says this is more than twice as many sales as the Volt achieved in its first six months - 2745 units - and well above the Leaf's 3875 sales in its start-up period.

However, the Japanese company did not mention that the Volt, which was launched in December 2010, is now whistling out of the showrooms at the rate of almost 3000 units a month, making it the top-selling electric car in the US.

Toyota does not give a breakdown of Prius PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) sales in its monthly sales figures, instead bundling all Prius vehicle sales under one banner.


US reports suggest Toyota delivered 1654 Prius PHEVs in its first full sales month in April and followed up with 695 in June.

With Toyota claiming "over 6000" Prius PHEV sales in the first six months since its launch in a limited number of US states in March, this would indicate Prius PHEV is selling a little more than 1000 units a month.

August sales figures issued by General Motors show Volt achieved 2831 sales, taking its eight-month year-to-date tally to 13,497 units.

Nissan says it sold 685 Leafs in August - down by half on its August 2011 tally of more than 1300 units - taking its YTD Leaf sales to 4228 vehicles (down 31.5 per cent).

The decline in Leaf sales is attributed to the drying up of early-adopter buyers - a common issue with full-electric cars.

With pricing starting from US$32,000 ($39,000), the Prius PHEV is cheaper in the US than either the Volt or Leaf, which have sticker prices starting at US$39,645 and US$35,200 respectively.

All of these models qualify for federal tax breaks of up to US$7500.

Now on sale in Europe and Japan following its debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September last year, the Prius PHEV achieves fuel economy of 2.1 litres per 100km and carbon emissions of 49 grams per kilometre. It can travel on electric power up to 23km at up to 100km/h, and its lithium-ion battery can be recharged from an external charge point in about 90 minutes.


This compares with a maximum range of 2km at speeds of less than 50km/h in full-electric mode for the standard, non-plug-in Prius hybrid.

Toyota New Zealand has had three plug-in models for testing and hopes to introduce the model in 2015.

"However Toyota is providing vehicles to larger countries with government subsidies first," said a Toyota NZ insider.