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Price cuts for Prius and BMW 3 Series

Toyota Australia says the substantial drop in the price of the Prius is in answer to its hybrid technology becoming more popular

Toyota's eco-friendly but buyer-cool Prius hybrid was the first to slash its price, down between $5000 and $7500 depending on the model.  Effective immediately, Prius is $34,990 and the upmarket i-Tech version is $45,990.

Toyota Australia says the substantial drop is in answer to its hybrid technology becoming more popular. Indeed, global Prius sales have exceeded a pleasing two-million units but in Australia, sales have totalled a relatively minor 16,000 since inception.

It has recorded a 63.7 per cent year-to-date plunge for 2011 compared with the same period in 2010 despite total hybrid private buyer passenger car sales almost doubling. It is believed the Toyota Camry Hybrid has taken a large slice of the Prius market.

Toyota Australia doesn't believe Prius buyers are disadvantaged by the price cuts.  Its sales and marketing director, Dave Buttner, says Toyota Australia has offered "substantial cost-of-ownership benefits for a considerable period through low-interest finance, in anticipation of official approval for the price repositioning".

"Customers who have taken advantage of these offers to buy a Prius from our dealers over many months have made substantial savings and are certainly not disadvantaged."

National passenger car sales slipped 4.1 per cent in March on a year-to-date basis and down 6.5 per cent on March 2010. Some big losers included the Ford Falcon, Volvo V70 and S40, VW Passat Mazda RX-8 and BMW 3-Series, the latter down 31 per cent on the same three-month period in 2010.

Coincidentally, BMW has taken a knife to the prices of its 3-Series models with cuts of up to 11 per cent.  It says the "sharpened pricing" is "a celebration of what has been the world's most successful premium model series".

Price changes affect the 3-Series sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible models. The 325i gets the biggest discount, falling $9100 (11 per cent) to $71,900 from $81,000 previously and at the same time, picking up the "Exclusive Innovations" pack with an upgraded sat-nav, voice control and bi-xenon headlights.

The M Sport version of the 325i sedan is also down 11 per cent, now $76,700 with a similar $9100 saving.  The 3-Series 325i Convertible with the "Innovations" pack is $9500 cheaper at $94,600.

Toyota's price cut aims to create greater acceptance of hybrids. The company is licensing its technology to other car makers.  Toyota's Dave Buttner says new hybrid models "will revitalise the market and help to make eco-cars in general more popular".

"A key factor in lowering the cost of any advanced technology is market acceptance, leading to strong sales," he says.  "The more popular hybrid cars become, the more affordable their prices and, therefore, the greater the impact on the environment."