The precipitous drop in new vehicle sales in the U.S. has hit SUVs and trucks the hardest with small cars and hybrids rapidly gaining market share. That up-tick in share isn't enough to offset the overall slump in volume, however, as even Toyota has decided to put off U.S. production of the Prius due to the slowdown.

A plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi, currently under construction, will be finished anyway, since it is 90% complete. The decision has been taken to delay installation of the equipment required to actually build the cars, however, because there just isn't enough demand to support the extra production, reports the Detroit Free Press.

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

The news comes as no surprise, however, as the company revealed it was considering the delay over a month ago. Prius production at the Blue Springs plant had been scheduled to begin in late 2010, but could now be pushed back as far as 2011.

Last year, over 130,000 examples of the Prius were sold in North America, with the preponderance of those sold in the U.S.