Toyota’s hybrid vehicles global sales surpassed 5 million, a technology which was at the beginning greeted with skepticism.

VW said that since 1997, when it introduced the Prius, until the end of March it has sold 5.125 million hybrids in the world. The gas-electric hybrids are more fuel-efficient as they switch back and forth between an electric motor and a gasoline engine, depending on the driving conditions and it recharges as it travels.

“What an achievement for this technology to have grown this widespread,” said Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, known as “the father of the Prius” for having led the team that developed the hit model. “I believe there is a lot more room for this technology to grow,” he told reporters at Toyota’s Tokyo office Wednesday.

The Toyota hybrid models currently account for 14% of the automaker’s global sales and 40% of its Japan sales. Toyota’s hybrid lineup consists of 19 hybrid passenger models and 1 plug-in hybrid. The automaker promised to introduce 18 new hybrids by the end of 2015. When the Prius was launched in the US, the customers met it with enthusiasm, despite marketing experts’ predictions that Americans would not want a hybrid as gas prices back then were still relatively low.

“Toyota has led the world on cost-effective fuel-saving hybrid technology for more than a decade, but the competition is really heating up,” said David Friedman, senior engineer and deputy director of the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C.


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