Toyota on Thursday said it had sold more than 1m Prius hybrid cars since launch in the Japanese domestic market in 1997.

Exports began in 2000 and, by the end of April 1,028,000 cars had been sold in over 40 countries.

Toyota claims a carbon dioxide emissions reduction of about 4.5m tonnes compared with petrol cars in the same class, basing that on average CO2 emissions and average distances traveled but excluding life cycle costs.

In reality, the greenhouse gases produced during the manufacture of a Prius are higher than for a conventional car, which has caused some to question Toyota’s fuel saving claims for its popular hybrid.

Nonetheless, the Prius delivers whole-life CO2 savings of around 35%, according to Toyota’s own analysis and this figure is not generally disputed.

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The second generation Prius was launched in 2003 and is produced in Japan and China.

Toyota Motor Europe (TME) meanwhile said its total Prius sales have now topped 100,000 units with 100,821 sold in Europe since launch here in 2000. More than a third of the total were sold in the last year alone.

Toyota’s corporate goal is to sell more than 1m Prius a year by 2010, which would give it economies of scale well beyond the reach of most of its competitors.

In June 2007 the automaker said it had sold a million hybrid vehicles in total.

Its hybrid model line now includes Crown sedan, Estima minivan and Hilux trucks in Japan, Camry and Highlander SUV hybrids in the US and Lexus luxury sedan and SUV models sold worldwide.

Toyota speeds up plug-in hybrids

Plug-in may be optional in Europe