Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A, Inc., on Dec. 8 announced a 31 percent increase in production of its all-new, second-generation Prius gas-electric hybrid sedan to help meet what it described as "heavy demand" for the vehicle in the U.S. market.The original Prius production plan for 2004 calendar year was 36,000 units. With 12,000 pre-orders received before the vehicle launched in mid-October and approximately 10,000 units delivered in its first six weeks on sale, it became necessary to boost Prius production to 47,000 units annually, according to Toyota."This is all about customer satisfaction," said Don Esmond, TMS senior vice president and general manager. "With record-shattering sales in both October and November, and no sign of demand letting up, it became clear we had underestimated our early sales projections. If 47,000 units is still too low, another request for additional production from our Tsutsumi Plant in Toyota City, Japan may be necessary."Prius (the name comes from the Latin "to go before") was the world's first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid vehicle when introduced in Japan in 1997 (2000 in the U.S. market). It has since become the best-selling hybrid vehicle in the world. Toyota says the second-generation, 2004 Prius is "the first hybrid vehicle to provide the room, comfort and features of a midsize sedan."The new Prius is the first Toyota product to employ Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, gas-electric hybrid powertrain technology. Toyota says the new system produces more power from both the gasoline engine and the electric motor, giving the Prius acceleration comparable to the Camry midsize sedan. It carries an estimated EPA rating of 60 MPG in city driving and 51 MPG on the highway, with a combined EPA mileage estimate of 55 MPG compared to 48 MPG for the previous-generation Prius. And like the previous model, Prius never needs to be plugged in for recharging.In addition to its best-in-class fuel economy, the new Prius emits 30 percent fewer emissions than the previous model, according to Toyota. That equates to producing nearly 90 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle. Prius has been certified as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) and an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV) category vehicle in California and those states adopting California standards.For the fourth consecutive model year Prius pricing holds steady with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $19,995.