Total worldwide sales of Toyota hybrid vehicles, including those badged under its luxury brand Lexus, have reportedly breached the four-million-unit mark as of April 30 this year.
Though the Toyota Prius is popularly known as the world's first mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle--having been launched in December 1997 in Japan--the first actual hybrid vehicle to become commercially available was a Toyota Coaster Hybrid, introduced to the Japanese market in August 1997.
Sales of the Prius began internationally in 2000 in Europe and North America. By 2003 with the launch of the second-generation Prius, Toyota expanded the use of its hybrid technology to include minivans, SUVs, and luxury sedans. The third-generation Prius was launched in May 2009 and proved to be so popular that global cumulative sales of Toyota hybrid vehicles topped three million units by February 2011.
Toyota currently sells 19 hybrid passenger vehicle models in approximately 80 countries, accounting for 15 percent of the carmaker's global vehicle sales.
According to the Japanese carmaker, its hybrid vehicles have led to a saving of approximately 26 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions "compared to what would have been emitted by petrol- or diesel-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance."