2010 Toyota Prius – Click above for a high-res image gallery

The well-publicized battle for hybrid sales supremacy between Honda and Toyota has taken yet another intriguing turn. According to Japan's Nikkei newspaper, Toyota is saying that it expects to take 40,000 preorders in Japan for its new 2010 Prius hybrid ahead of its official rollout in May. For the sake of comparison, the Japanese automaker sold a total of 73,100 Prius hybrids in all of 2008.

More importantly, rival automaker Honda managed to sell about 18,000 copies of its latest Insight hybrid in its first month on sale. By all accounts, Honda was delighted to move that many Insights – the automaker had predicted that it would only sell about 5,000 units for the first month the hybrid was available in Japan.

A few months ago, Honda made a big splash by pricing the smaller, slightly less fuel efficient Insight a few million yen (or a few thousand dollars) below the starting price of the standard-setting Prius. In response, Toyota announced it would keep the previous generation Prius around for at least another year and dropped that model's price to match the Insight.

But that wasn't enough for Toyota – earlier this month, the automaker set the starting price for the new 2010 model at 2.05 million yen ($20,750), which is just about the same as the mid-level Insight. The next chapter: U.S. pricing for the 2010 Prius has yet to be announced. Let the games continue.

[Source: Reuters]

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