In its previous generation, the Prius was forecast to move 400,000 units per-year globally, Toyota has now scaled that figure back to 350,000 for the new model.
According to Toyota, low fuel prices are a contributing factor, with crude oil prices at their lowest point for five years, and the price of petrol in the important US market matching 2007 levels.
While cheap petrol prices in the US are pushing vehicle sales toward a new record in 2015, convincing consumers to go green is a more difficult proposition with low-price gasoline.
The petrol pricing trend may continue into next year, with demand softening in China as the Chinese economy’s rampant growth plateaus and consumer demand levels out.
While Toyota points the finger at pump prices, there’s also a slew of new, greener conventional models from within its own ranks, as well as from competitors that threaten to pull the rug from under the Prius.
Where the Prius was once the sole hybrid in Toyota’s line-up, the Prius range itself now includes the smaller Prius C and seven-seat Prius V, while the Auris (sold here as the Corolla), Camry and Avalon now all feature hybrid variants.
Hyundai has also just announced its own Prius-fighter with the Ioniq - which will offer hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and full electric powertrains (BEV) rolling out from next year. Likewise, Kia is expected to utilise some of the same technology in its coming Niro SUV.
What does this mean for Toyota? Instead of green buyers seeing the Prius as the default option when it comes to efficient motoring, a broader consumer choice will see each automaker vying for a share of the same green market.
Traditionally in the United States, sales of large cars drop rapidly once petrol prices rise, with more efficient vehicles picking up the slack, while conversely as fuel prices drop so do green vehicle sales.
While petrol prices might be on their way down, green options are growing, meaning the market Toyota has dominated for so long could be about to change dramatically.
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