Toyota launches 2010 Prius as Honda hopes to compete

Toyota launches 2010 Prius as Honda hopes to compete Detroit  - Toyota Motor Co on Monday unveiled the third version of its best-selling hybrid car, the Prius, one day after Honda Motor Co launched a similar car it hopes can eat into Toyota's commanding share of the hybrid market.

The 2010 Prius, which Toyota says is more fuel-efficient than any other car on the market, was the highlight of this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, a toned-down affair as automakers leave behind one of their worst sales years in decades.

Car sales in the US plunged more than 35 per cent in the fourth quarter. Hybrids did even worse in the final months as petrol prices fell from their summer highs. Sales of the Prius dropped 50 per cent in November.

But carmakers are still optimistic that fuel-efficiency and hybrids will be key over the long term. A number of companies unveiled electric cars and plug-in hybrids at this year's auto show.

Toyota's Japanese rival Honda introduced the Honda Insight Hybrid on Sunday, a similar mid-sized car that is expected to sell for about 3,000 dollars less than the Prius, which controls about three- quarters of the hybrid market.

The 2010 Prius is Toyota's third version of the popular car, which first went on sale in 1997. dpa

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