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Toyota sharpens Prius price knife

Prius price cut: Toyota will cut the price of its hybrid mid-sizer to better differentiate it from its Lexus CT200h stablemate, as well make it more price-competitive with Honda's Insight.

Lexus CT200h hybrid hatch arrival signals price chop for stablemate Toyota Prius

29 Mar 2011

TOYOTA Australia has confirmed it will take the knife to the price of its petrol-electric Prius to drag it out of the shadow of the new Lexus luxury hybrid hatchback, the CT200h, which landed in showrooms on a similar $39,990 price point this week.

Although Toyota public relations manager Mike Breen would not say when the price cut would come or by how much, he confirmed it would be soon.

Prius sales have already slipped in recent months, down 62.6 per cent this year compared with the first two months of 2010, and to leave it to compete with the luxuriously appointed, more sophisticated Lexus five-door hybrid hatch would have been model suicide.

The Prius already has been operating at a $10,000 disadvantage to the similarly sized $29,990 Honda Insight hybrid five-door hatch, and is more than $5000 dearer than the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Even the entry-level version of the bigger Toyota Camry Hybrid starts at $36,990, with the Luxury spec on sale for $39,990 – just $90 more than the current base Prius list price.

The task is even tougher for the up-spec Prius model, the i-Tech, on $53,500.

8 center imageFrom top: Lexus CT200h, Toyota Prius C, Honda Insight.

Last year, Prius averaged 134 sales a month, compared with 50 a month this year. Sales of the pioneering hybrid hatch peaked at 446 units in July 2009 when Toyota lobbed the latest model on to the market.

The peak year for Prius sales was 2008 when 3413 of the cars found homes in Australia during the most recent petrol price spike – twice as many as in 2010.

Despite its price advantage, Honda’s mild-hybrid Insight is not doing much better in 2011, averaging 60 sales for the first two months.

Toyota is expected to expand its Prius into a family over the next couple of years, with the current car likely to be joined by the Prius Plug-in Hybrid next year.

Also under consideration are the seven-seat Prius+ that was revealed recently at the Geneva motor show, and the compact Prius C – a hybrid city car that will appear at this year’s Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne.

The latter will be launched in the United States in the first half of next year, but Toyota Australia says it will await public reaction at the Melbourne show before confirming a local launch.

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