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As U.S. gas prices accelerated above $4 per gallon this summer, sales of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and large trucks hit a brick wall. By June, sales of SUVs had fallen 34 percent and full-size pickups declined 25 percent from the prior year, according to Ward's Automotive Reports. In this environment, companies had to quickly transform their strategies and their plants. Like other automakers, Toyota was surprised by the suddenness of the change. But Toyota had built a portfolio that included fast-selling hybrid vehicles, which helped it absorb some of the shock. It retooled its SUV and truck plants and announced plans to produce its hybrid Prius in the U.S. for the first time in Mississippi.
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