Toyota Trims Plug-in Prius Price to Improve U.S. Sales

Toyota Motor Corp. is reducing the price of its plug-in Prius models to try to boost sales and meet a California mandate as automakers find that cost is critical to U.S. consumers’ willingness to buy rechargeable autos.

The world’s largest seller of hybrid autos is trimming the base price of the 2014 Prius Plug-in to $29,990, a $2,010 reduction from the current car, while the top-end Advanced grade gets a 12 percent cut to $34,905, Toyota said in a statement yesterday. The new versions, which also get a $2,500 U.S. tax credit, go on sale next month.

The company in August began offering reduced lease and loan deals for its battery-powered RAV4 crossover to spur its sales. Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have all turned to discounted leases, price cuts or both for rechargeable models.

Toyota is under particular pressure to sell as many plug-in hybrids and battery-only vehicles as possible in California to comply with the state’s Zero-Emission Vehicle program. The Toyota City, Japan-based company has the biggest share of auto sales in the state and as a result must sell the most low-polluting models.

Price reductions for the Japan-built plug-in, which goes 11 miles (18 kilometers) on battery power before operating like a standard Prius, is less painful for Toyota because of a 20 percent drop in the yen’s value against the dollar in the past year.

The company said it sold 12,750 of the vehicles in the U.S. last year, missing an initial goal of 15,000. Deliveries through September total 7,974.

U.S. plug-in hybrid and battery-only auto sales total about 67,000 this year through September, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s a record and already exceeds the about 52,000 sold in all of 2012. GM’s Volt plug-in is the segment’s top-seller, with 16,760 deliveries, followed by Nissan’s all-electric Leaf hatchback at 16,076, according to the companies.

Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is in Torrance, California.

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