Toyota said it does not believe the Prius hybrid line will reach the growth target, as it did not expect gasoline prices to fall so quickly.
“It’ll be a challenge,” Jim Lentz, Toyota’s North American chief executive officer, said in an interview today in New York. “We’ll continue to push Prius and Prius family, but if it ends up that demand is less than the sales forecast, that may be adjusted.”
Last month the Japanese automaker said its target for 2013 is to sell 250,000 Prius models in the States, an increase of 5.6% from 236,659 units sold last year. During the first quarter sales of the Prius hybrids fell 8.4% to 55,724 units. Over the past 10 years sales of gasoline-electric vehicles increased despite fluctuating fuel prices.
If in April 2012 the average US gasoline price was $3.891 a gallon, this April the price is $3.506 a gallon, a decrease of 9.9% from last year. This year so far Toyota and Lexus hybrid sales increased 2.4% to 83,642 units, although Prius sales dropped in the first quarter.
“Since we now have about 2 million hybrid owners in the U.S., we do have people coming in to buy new hybrids again,” said Lentz, who is based at the company’s Torrance, California, U.S. sales office.