ERLANGER, Ky. ( TheStreet) -- Toyota ( TM), the automaker reeling from a series of safety recalls, said North American sales rose about 50% since the beginning of March on the back of incentives.

Don Esmond, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales, told the Associated Press that early numbers surpassed the company's expectations.

Toyota last week announced incentives such as no-interest loans and free maintenance to turn around its flagging sales. In February, sales fell 9% as Toyota stopped selling certain brands because of safety issues like sticking gas pedals and braking problems.

Toyota has recalled about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide since the fall. More than 6 million of those recalls were in the U.S.

The latest incident to dent Toyota's reputation is the well-publicized story of a Toyota Prius that sped out of control at 94 mph on a highway in San Diego and had to be rescued by cops who gave the driver instructions on how to make the car slow down.

Toyota said Monday that certain media were incorrectly reporting that it planned a new recall for the 2004-2009 Prius to address the "potential risk for floor mat entrapment of accelerator pedals. "

The company, in a statement on its Web site, said no new recall was being planned for the Prius to address this issue. The 2004-2009 Prius was part of an announcement in November of a voluntary safety recall campaign to address floor mat entrapment in certain Toyota and Lexus models, Toyota said.

Toyota fell 1.4% Wednesday in Tokyo trading. The stock is down 11% for the year.

-- Reported by Joseph Woelfel in New York.

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