Third generation Toyota Prius
Even mighty Toyota can't escape harsh economic times

The downturn in the economy isn't only affecting the Big 3 as some may wish to believe. The credit crunch coupled with massive job losses has led to a serious downturn in car sales as well. While the Big 3 have definitely been hit the hardest, even industry stalwarts like Toyota and Honda are finding that they can't be as aggressive as they have been in the past with their development/production cycle.

In the case of Toyota, the company has put the brakes on its eighth North American automobile plant. "Due to the uncertainty of the market, it is impossible to say at this time when production will begin," noted the company in a press statement. "Toyota continues to evaluate its operations globally and reduce production as necessary to match the weak market."

Workers at the new $300M Mississippi assembly plant -- which currently stands at 90% complete -- were to build current and future versions of the Prius hybrid. However, even Toyota's fuel-efficient Prius hasn't been able to escape lagging sales numbers. According to Reuters, Prius sales were down 48% for November year-over-year.

The steep drop in Prius sales, along with a 34% decline in automobile sales altogether for Toyota in November, and a 92-day car inventory are all cited as reasons for slowing down its expansion plans.

Reuters adds that Toyota will still complete the outer structure of the Mississippi assembly plant, but will instead wait to install the production machinery at a later date.

Toyota's next generation Prius will makes its official debut next year at the Detroit Auto Show. The vehicle, however, was first leaked on the internet in October.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation
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