Toyota lowers global sales targets for new model Prius amid low petrol prices

Toyota Motor Corp's new Prius hybrid car is displayed during its Japan launch event in Tokyo, Japan, December 9, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T on Wednesday lowered its global sales target for the new model of its Prius electric hybrid, as low petrol prices reduce demand for fuel-efficient cars.

The fourth-generation Prius goes on sale early next year and Toyota, the world’s biggest selling automaker, said it was now targeting average global annual sales of 300,000-350,000, the lower end of the 300,000-400,000 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.

A near halving in global oil prices since the middle of last year, however, has cut petrol prices, prompting drivers in the world’s biggest auto market the United States and beyond to ditch fuel-efficient models for gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles.

U.S. petrol 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 went on sale in Japan on Wednesday, starting at 2.43 million yen ($19,807.63) 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 dominates the gasoline-hybrid car market, making 8 million of the more than 9 million gasoline-fuelled vehicles on the road globally. Roughly 4 million of those are Priuses.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Miral Fahmy