Prius still inspires a waiting list

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Throughout Toyota’s global operations, managers are scrambling to cut costs in the wake of record losses.

But at Toyota’s Tsutsumi plant, managers have the opposite problem: meeting demand for the third generation of the Prius, which has become an instant hit in Japan and is rolling into American showrooms now.

The Prius plant has brought back overtime — a rarity these days, given Japan’s weak economy — and recruited workers from Toyota factories across the country…

To be sure, no one at Toyota expects the profit earned on the Prius alone to revive the company’s fortunes, but the buzz of the car’s initial success is at least diverting attention from the auto giant’s stumbles.

In Japan, Toyota received 80,000 orders for the car before it went on sale, a fifth of the company’s sales goal of 400,000 worldwide for the year, about half of that in the United States.

The company sold 110,000 Priuses in Japan in May — and there is a waiting list of several months — helped by government incentives that encouraged sales of fuel-efficient cars.

You know. The sort of practice encouraging thrifty transport so hated and feared by the Party of No.

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The demand is rippling down the supply chain. One Japanese supplier, a Panasonic EV Energy factory that makes the batteries that power the Prius hatchback, is also working around the clock.

It had shut down its factories for 17 days because of slow sales in the first four months of 2009. But since the Prius went on sale in May, the battery maker has stepped up production and declared a moratorium on vacations.

The popularity of the Prius is a bright spot in a global auto industry still reeling from the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler. The rest of Japan’s auto sector has slumped along with the global economy, prompting factory shutdowns and layoffs…

“I feel very relieved and excited that they are selling well,” said Akihiko Otsuka, chief engineer of the Prius, at a recent tour of Toyota’s design laboratories and factories.

“I expect sales to push up the entire car market,” he said. “I am not pessimistic about the future.”

RTFA. Beaucoup details about the ripple effect this has on the Japanese economy. Another process that keeps progress-haters in denial. Current American conservative writ will only admit to ripple effects generated by the wealthy.

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