A $5.3bn auction for the salvage of the world’s most profitable vehicle, the Toyota Prius, is a major success story in a sector where a few hundred million cars are sold every year.
But as the auctioneer for the auction announced on Thursday that the car had reached its $5m mark, there was still much to do to reach the goal of $6m, or one third of the $3.5bn that was set by the government as the price tag.
As the auction drew to a close, the car’s owner, Japanese businessman Akira Hayashi, said the car “would have been a disaster” had it been wrecked by a driver during a wrecking accident.
But the Prius is one of only two supercars in the world, along with the Ferrari 488 GTB, that have won more than $5bn at auction in the last 30 years.
The auctioneer, Peter J. Shipps, who was previously chief executive of the auction house Christie’s, said that the sale of the car in the US would have “the biggest impact on the global auto industry” and was “a huge contribution to saving the auto sector”.
Toyota has been struggling since it went bankrupt in 2011 and the car has not seen a profitable year since.
The company has struggled to compete with the likes of Nissan, which sold 2.6 million cars in 2016 and 3.6m in 2017, as well as Volkswagen, which has more than 50m vehicles sold.
Toyota’s biggest market in the USA is California, where it has a massive manufacturing and service centre.
Mr Hayashi said he was optimistic that the auction would help the company’s struggling domestic sales.
“If it can sell for the price of $5 million and help us raise funds for Toyota to build our US assembly plant, we will be fine,” he said.
“It’s not a very good deal.
It is very sad.”
Toyota said the Priuses “wouldn’t have been good for America if it was sold by accident”.
Toyotas sales slumped after the recession, but are now recovering.