Are Fierce Rivalries Slowing Down the Prius?

Toyota Prius V car beach

Just as Toyota (NYSE:TM) moves its 3 millionth Prius hybrid model off the lot, an executive with the company says that the world’s largest car manufacturer might not meet its annual sales goal for the best selling hybrid this year, pegged at 250,000 vehicles.

“The 240,000 to 250,000 range is kind of where we’re settling our sights for the Prius family,” said Bill Fay, group vice president for Toyota’s U.S. sales. June and July marketing spends have been increased for the car, in efforts to meet the goal. Last year, Toyota sold 236,659 Prius models in the United States alone.

However, the first six months of this year saw a 5.1 percent decline in Prius sales, though the slide is not attributed to an ailing automotive sales climate — overall sales for the market rose 6 percent.

Toyota faces increasing competition across the board, but with new entrants offering comparable mileage to Toyota’s famed Prius, the line differentiating the car from its rivals is becoming increasingly blurred. Hybrid technology is now found in a slew of vehicles, from small hatchbacks like the Prius, to midsize sedans such as Ford’s (NYSE:F) strong-selling Fusion, and even in pickup trucks, like Chevrolet’s (NYSE:GM) Silverado.

Now, Toyota must do more and work harder to continue the monumental success that the Prius has enjoyed since it’s market debut in the late 90s, and its arrival in the U.S. in 2001. The company introduced a plug-in variant, but that too is facing mounting competition with the likes of Chevrolet’s Volt, and even Nissan’s pure electric car, the Leaf.  The plug-in Prius offers an estimated 95 miles per gallon in the city, and about 50 on the highway.

Even with its V trim and the C trim versions, a family friendly station wagon and small two-door runabout respectively, the variations have not been enough to reinvigorate sales. However, with the yen at levels that heavily favor Japanese internationals, Toyota will likely use the currency swing to its advantage in order to pick its numbers back up.

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