TOYOTA'S Prius hybrid car topped Japanese sales charts in March despite a safety scandal which has seen US authorities propose a record 16.4 million dollar (£10.8 million) fine, it was revealed today.
The US government has accused Toyota of hiding a "dangerous defect" and yesterday announced the proposed penalty for failing to alert regulators to safety problems quickly enough.
But Toyota - which has recalled more than eight million vehicles worldwide over issues including braking problems with the Prius - sold 35,546 units of the gas-electric vehicle in Japan last month, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.
The group said the Prius was Japan’s top-selling car for an 11th straight month in March.
Toshiki Miyake, a spokesman for the association, said: "Despite the recall trouble, the automaker cannot keep up with surging demand for the Prius."
Tax breaks and government subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles were also said to be enticing consumers to buy the Prius.
Toyota has battled to regain its reputation for quality after acceleration problems in several models and braking issues in the Prius caused it to recall swathes of cars across the globe.
The move has particularly hit the US, where more than six million vehicles were sent back.
It is believed ongoing federal investigations could lead to further penalties in America, while Toyota also faces private lawsuits seeking many millions more.
The Prius, however, remains so popular in Japan that it has a six-month waiting list.
According to today’s figures, sales quadrupled in the year to March to 277,485, making it the country’s best selling vehicle over the period.
Rival Honda’s fuel-efficient FIT was in second place in March sales, with 23,076 units sold in Japan.
Now in its third generation since being introduced in 1997, the Prius is the best-selling gas-electric hybrid in the world, with a total of 1.7 million sold worldwide.