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Toyota’s Prius pays price for cheap gasoline

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TOKYO—Toyota Motor Corp.’s latest Prius has a problem: gasoline prices.

When the Prius first went on the U.S. market in the late 1990s, it was a hit among celebrities like actor Leonardo DiCaprio who flaunted their environmental bona fides with the hybrid gas-electric car.

The latest version, which hit roads in December last year, is more fuel-efficient than ever, getting 54 miles to the gallon. In Toyota’s TM, +0.88% home market of Japan, it tops the sales charts. But it is struggling in the U.S. as relatively cheap gasoline prices dent the car maker’s strategy of presenting itself as the leader of an environmentally-friendly future—with the Prius as the vanguard.

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