The 2016 Toyota Prius, the fourth generation of the company's iconic hybrid-electric vehicle, is just starting to come onto the market around the world.

But with the price of oil a fraction of what it was two years ago, and gasoline prices at recent lows in major markets, the title of highest fuel efficiency of any gasoline car is less alluring.

And Toyota is already cutting its sales projections for the fourth-generation Prius as a result.

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That's the word from Reuters, which wrote yesterday that the company is now targeting sales of 300,000 to 350,000 units a year globally.

That's at the bottom end of the previous model's targets, which varied from 300,000 to 400,000 cars a year from 2010 through 2015.

2016 Toyota Prius Two Eco

2016 Toyota Prius Two Eco

Sales in its home market will likely do well, given Japan's vehicle tax system, which is aggressively biased toward encouraging adoption of hybrid vehicles.

But Japan is a small piece of the global total, and in the largest single market for the Prius--the United States--gas prices are at seven-year lows.

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With at or below $2 a gallon in some locations--half its price six or seven years ago--the U.S. new-vehicle market continues to shift from cars to crossovers and SUVs.

And that hurts the Prius, even though the new car is a demonstrably better vehicle in almost every way than the third-generation model it replaces.

2016 Chevrolet Volt Vs. 2016 Toyota Prius

2016 Chevrolet Volt Vs. 2016 Toyota Prius

Reuters attributed confirmation of the sales goal reduction to a Toyota spokesperson.

That unnamed representative told the news service that "a decline in annual sales for the hybrid cars since 2013 was a factor behind the automaker's decision to lower its sales target."

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The Toyota Prius remains by far the best-selling hybrid car in history, with almost half of its more than 8 million hybrids sold since 1997 represented by that one model.

The company now makes more than two dozen different hybrid vehicles for sale globally.

Before the new Prius, its most recent U.S. launch was the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid compact crossover.


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