Toyota Third-Generation Prius for Sale in China image

Toyota’s third generation Prius, was launched in Shenzhen, China this week, the company hoping to gain a foothold in the world’s largest auto market.

The joint venture has set sales target of 3,000 new Prius units for 2012, after investigating consumer attitudes towards new energy vehicles and considering the sales performance of the last generation model.

Shenzhen is known for its forward-thinking when it comes to green transportation, BYD Automobile already having a strong position after its electric E6, went on sale in October 2011. Taking this into consideration, Prius may face a hard sell, since it doesn’t boast the full electrification many Chinese buyers in the city will be familiar with and also because of the relatively expensive price of the Prius compared to Chinese-built models ($36,508).

Prius is to meet even more home-grown competition since the government keen to focus more on hybrids because of the relatively poor infrastructure for electric vehicles outside of Shenzhen. Furthermore, the new generation’s usage of a 1.8 L engine instead of the original 1.5 L one may make it harder for it to continue receiving government savings.

Toyota, for its part, is staying optimistic, saying that it plans to produce the cars locally in the country by 2015.