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Lexus Increasing Dependence On Hybrids

But luxury maker struggling with flaws HS250h.

by on Dec.09, 2010

Lexus is betting heavily on hybrids, like the CT200h, despite some setbacks.

As it races to the wire, Lexus is once again aiming to end the year as the nation’s leading luxury nameplate – and its heavy dependence on hybrid-electric technology is one reason it would get there.

The first high-line brand to introduce a hybrid-electric vehicle, Lexus now has more HEVs in its line-up than any other luxury brand – and the list is about to grow, with the launch of the new CT200h. (Click Here for a review of the 2011 Lexus CT200h.)

But not all of the Toyota subsidiary’s hybrids have performed equally well.  Insiders lament the lackluster performance of the first dedicated Lexus model, the HS250h, while the LS600h, the most expensive model in the Lexus line-up – other than the limited-edition LF-A supercar – has been lagging initial expectations.

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Nonetheless, Lexus manager Brian Bolain says the trendline is moving in the right direction, and that hybrid sales are expected to surge from around 30,000 to 42,000 with the addition of the 2011 CT200h.  Measured in terms of share, the technology accounts for about 13% of the brand’s overall volume, with Lexus aiming to boost that to at least 18%.

“We’re looking at the CT200h being a game-changing opportunity for us,” said Bolain, during a recent preview of the new hybrid.


First Drive: 2011 Lexus CT200h

Balancing mileage and performance.

by on Dec.06, 2010

The Lexus CT200h is the Toyota luxury brand's fifth hybrid offering.

Say the word, “hybrid,” and you’re likely to respond with, “Toyota.”  And for good reason, considering the maker accounts for 75% of the gas-electric vehicles currently on the road, primarily in the form of the Toyota Prius.

But the Japanese maker’s luxury marque has arguably made an even bigger commitment to hybrid technology, with four models already accounting for nearly 15% of its total volume.  Now comes number five and, if Lexus planners have done their homework, the launch of the new CT200h could bump that figure notably higher.

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Early on, Lexus saw hybrid technology as a way to deliver better performance without the mileage impact of offering bigger engines.  That controversial approach was abandoned with the launch of the HS250h, the brand’s first dedicated – read: Prius-like – hybrid.  Sadly, the HS proved that there’s still room to deliver a truly mediocre product in today’s market, even senior Lexus officials apologizing for the quirky little cars mostly unappealing quirks.

With the launch of the 2011 Lexus CT200h, the maker hopes to get things in better balance, using its high-tech, Prius-derived drivetrain to not only deliver solid fuel economy, but also to boost the fun-to-drive quotient of what might otherwise be a lackluster Euro-styled hatchback.