Toyota halts completion of Mississippi Prius plant

Toyota today said it plans to delay production “due to the steep decline in the market” at its Blue Springs, Miss., plant where it is planning to build the Toyota Prius, according to a story in the Detroit Free Press.

According to the story, Toyota said it plans to finish construction of the plant since it is about 90 percent complete, but said it plans to put the installation of equipment on hold.

“This likely means that start of production will be delayed,” Toyota said in a statement. “Due to the uncertainty of the market, it is impossible to say at this time when production will begin.”

Initially, Toyota planned to build its Highlander SUV at the Mississippi plant, but in July, as gas and oil prices hit historical highs, Toyota announced major changes to its North American production plans.

Toyota said it would assemble the Highlander in Princeton, Ind. It announced that it would assemble the Prius, the world’s best-selling hybrid vehicle, in the United States for the first time beginning in 2010. In November, sales of the Prius dropped 48.3 percent in the United States.

“We appreciate the patience and understanding the people of Mississippi have shown in recognizing this is an extraordinary and unprecedented time for the auto industry,” Toyota said in its statement. “We are committed to completing the Mississippi plant when market conditions allow.”