Introduced for the Japanese market last December, the Toyota Prius C had only hit U.S. showrooms on March 12. In only its first three days in the U.S. market, the Prius C sold 1,201 units, eclipsing the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf’s complete February sales performance of 1,023 and 478 units respectively.
However, demand for the new small hybrid is even greater in Japan. Quite the hot seller, a 120,000 order backlog for Japan threatens the U.S. allocation. Toyota announced that current supply constraints limit the plants to only assembling 6,000 units per month for the North American market, or 30,000 Prius C’s a month in total.
The car is built exclusively in the Kanto factory of Iwate, northern Japan, and while the plant exported as much as 60 percent of its output in 2007, only 30 percent of its output is exported today. The lack of a North American plant for assembly combined with the yen’s steadily rising rate of exchange against the dollar has tightened the profit margin of the Japan-made vehicle, causing Toyota to concentrate its sales efforts to Japan.
Despite the challenges, Kanto Iwate President Tetsuo Hattori said that tweaks will be performed to push efficiencies that should help boost capacity. What’s more, the Japan-specific Ractis subcompact, built in the same plant, will gradually shift its production elsewhere starting in May, providing extra capacity and dedicating more of the facility to Prius C assembly.
Besides the Ractis small car, a number of Scion xD models, the Belta/Yaris sedans, and the Blade hatchback are manufactured at the Iwate plant.
“We have to produce other models too, so we are running at quite high utilization. We are looking at ways of satisfying demand of all our customers,” Hattori said.
So far, Hattori is unaware of discussions to expand Prius C capacity by assembling them at other plants as well. He did note that Toyota will commence a group wide manufacturing strategy review in Japan this April and May.
GALLERY: Toyota Prius C
[Source: Auto News]