Southern California environment news and trends

‘Star Wars’ characters sell Toyota’s plug-in Prius in Japan

Things seem to be looking up for electric and hybrid vehicles in America. The much-discussed Chevy Volt just recorded its second-best sales month yet, even besting the plug-in Toyota Prius and Nissan’s all-electric Leaf in U.S. numbers during May of this year.

Still, it’s the Prius that rules the overall roost, with the car becoming the third best-selling vehicle in the world over the first quarter of 2012, as reported by Bloomberg News.

Looking to boost sales of the new Prius plug-in hybrid in Japan, Toyota has recruited a couple of ringers for their latest TV commercial: "Star Wars" droids R2-D2 and C-3PO.

A translation of the new spot (which can be found on Green Car Reports) finds the droids getting a charge from the same plug that juices up the Prius while the announcer delivers the facts, like the car’s total EPA range being 540 miles, with overall efficiency of 50 mpg, and as much as 95 MPGe over the first 11 miles.

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Rising gas prices drive Toyota Prius sales spike

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Toyota Priuses on the Toyota Santa Monica lot

As American-made hybrids battle for respect (and sales), the numbers are looking great for Toyota hybrids. According to Bloomberg, the Japanese automaker saw an impressive across the board sales increase for the month of February. The statistic that really jumps off the page: sales of the Prius models (including the v wagon) jumped up 52 percent, the largest increase the company has seen in close to four years. Including all Toyota and Lexus branded hybrid vehicles, sales figures were up a full 60 percent.

As reported by Tree Hugger, this marked increase in sales coincides directly with soaring gas costs across the country, citing the AAA-determined average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $3.74 as of the last day of February. According to CBS, that’s much less than the Los Angeles average, which as of this week sat at $4.38 per gallon.

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