updated 10/31/2003 5:28:55 PM ET 2003-10-31T22:28:55

The new gasoline-electric hybrid car from Toyota Motor Corp. is selling much better than the Japanese automaker had expected. Orders received for the revamped Prius in Japan in September totaled 17,500, more than five times Toyota’s target of 3,000, the automaker, based in Toyota City, said Thursday.

The new Prius, which hit Japanese showrooms Sept. 1, will start selling in North America this month. Toyota plans to put it on sale in Europe by the end of this year.

Toyota began selling the Prius in 1997, the world’s first commercially mass-produced hybrid car.

The hybrid switches between a gasoline engine and an electric motor to produce an efficient and ecological ride. The new Prius gets as much as 84 miles per gallon for driving in Japan, and its mileage is 55 miles per gallon under U.S. driving conditions, according to Toyota.

Toyota has sold more than 120,000 of the initial Prius vehicles worldwide. Toyota President Fujio Cho has said he wants to sell 76,000 of the new Prius cars worldwide in a year. By mid-decade, Toyota is hoping to sell 300,000 of the vehicles a year.

The latest Prius model is equipped with automated steering to help curbside and back-in parking. The driver does not have to touch the steering wheel for the car to park itself.

Honda Motor Co. already sell hybrid vehicles, and Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group have also announced plans for hybrid vehicles.

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