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For automakers who worry that California sets trends for the nation, here’s something to either cheer or worry about: Toyota Prius was the best-selling car in the Golden State last year.

Californians registered 60,688 of the new Prius hybrids in 2012, nearly one out of every five subcompacts, the California New Cars Dealers Association reports. It bested the Honda Civic, at 57,124. Prius’ ascent shows how hybrids, once considered exotic because of their ability to run on electricity alone, are becoming mainstream.

Sure, gas prices climbed last year, giving an edge to hybrids, but the Prius continues to be a hit. Consumer Reports calls it the nation’s best new-car bargain. “It’s extremely reliable and roomy, rides well, has secure handling and is super-cheap to operate,” the magazine writes in its February issue. How cheap? 49 cents a mile when everything is factored in.

Toyota held a 21.1% market share in the state, followed by Honda at 12.5% and Ford and General Motors, each with a bit more than 11%, based on a new-vehicle registrations. Kia had the biggest increase in market share, up 53.3%.



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