TORRANCE, CA --- Citing a "steep decline in the market," Toyota said it will probably delay production at its Blue Springs, Miss., plant where it planned to build the Toyota Prius, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Toyota said it will eventually finish construction of the plant since it is about 90 percent complete, but will 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."

Toyota originally planned to build its Highlander SUV at the Mississippi plant. But after gas and oil prices hit historical highs in July, Toyota announced major changes to its North American production plans. Toyota then announced it would assemble the Highlander in Princeton, Ind., and would assemble the Prius 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."