TOKYO (Reuters) — Toyota Motor Corp. lowered its global sales target for the new Prius electric hybrid, as low fuel prices reduce demand for fuel-efficient cars.
The fourth-generation Prius, which went on sale in Japan today, will launch early next year in Europe and the U.S. Toyota says it is now targeting average global annual sales of 300,000 to 350,000, the lower end of the 300,000 to 400,000 annual sales target for the previous model.
A Toyota spokeswoman said a decline in annual sales for the hybrid cars since 2013 was a factor behind the automaker’s decision to lower its sales target.
Lower prices at the pump
A near halving in global oil prices since the middle of last year, however, has cut pump prices, prompting drivers in the world’s biggest auto market the U.S. and beyond to ditch fuel-efficient models for thirstier SUVs.
U.S. gasoline prices are now at seven-year lows and according to Toyota’s monthly sales records, U.S. sales of Prius series models have fallen 12 percent in the year to November from the same period last year.
The new model Prius starts at 2.43 million yen ($19,807.63) in Japan or about 19 percent more than the previous model. It will be launched in North America and Asia in January, and in Europe in February.
Toyota says the company is targeting a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions for the new Prius under the European testing cycle when compared with the current model.
The reduction would mean the Prius’s lowest CO2 emissions would be about 70 grams per kilometer compared with 86g/km in the current model. The car’s fuel consumption would decrease to about 3 liters/100km (78.4 mpg U.S. /94 mpg UK) from 3.9l/100km (60.3 mpg U.S. /72.4 mpg UK).
Toyota dominates the gasoline-hybrid car market, making 8 million of the more than 9 million gasoline-fueled vehicles on the road globally. Roughly 4 million of those are Priuses.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report