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Toyota Recalls Prius, Lexus HS for Faulty Brakes

Second recall involving brake issues for popular Prius line.

by on Jun.05, 2013

The 2010 Prius may experience cracks in a key brake system component.

Two of Toyota’s high-profile hybrid models, notably including the best-selling Prius, are being recalled due to brake problems, according to the Japanese maker.

In all, about 87,000 vehicles are impacted, including Toyota Prius hatchbacks and Lexus HS 250h hybrids sold during the 2010 model-year. The maker does not say how many of each model are covered by the recall.

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The problem is the result of a brake pressure accumulator that may develop a fatigue crack due to vibration. That would lead to the loss of at least some brake pressure. Toyota said it has received no reports of accidents or injuries related to the problem.

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Bye-Bye Lexus HS250h, We Hardly Knew Ye – nor Cared

Lexus hybrid quietly slips into oblivion.

by on May.17, 2012

Oh, they're not building it anymore?

You might not have noticed.  Indeed, it seems pretty much everyone but the folks on the assembly line missed the fact that the Lexus HS250h went out of production back in January.

And no surprise.  Even at its launch in mid-2009 normally upbeat U.S. officials for the Toyota luxury brand were already making apologies for what was billed as the first dedicated Lexus hybrid.  It was cramped and slow, with a strangely laid-out interior that hardly supported the marketing claim that it was a high-mileage luxury car.

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Consumers all but ignored the Lexus HS250h, sales plunging to a marginal 2,864 last year, down a whopping 73% from 2010’s already anemic numbers.

Lexus allowed the HS to go gently into the automotive equivalent of that good, dark night and its departure might not have been noticed had it not been for a question posed by Inside Line.

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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.

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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.

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First Drive: 2010 Lexus HS250h

World’s first dedicated luxury hybrid.

by on May.26, 2009

The 2010 Lexus HS250h is the world's first dedicated luxury hybrid.

The 2010 Lexus HS250h is the world's first dedicated luxury hybrid.

The Toyota Prius is the world’s most popular hybrid-electric vehicle.  It’s also the most distinctive.  Indeed, it may be one of the easiest cars on the road to recognize, a factor that’s definitely played well to folks who like to make their “green” leanings as obvious as possible.

So it should come as no surprise that Toyota decided to use the same strategy when it began working up the design for the fourth hybrid offering from its luxury division, Lexus.  The 2010 Lexus HS250h is also the brand’s first HEV-only model.  Unlike the RX400h, LS600h and GS450h, the new HS is being offered with only a battery-electric powertrain.

To get a better feel for the 2010 Lexus HS250h, we headed out West to drive the sedan along the environmentally-friendly, in sentiment anyway, Los Angeles coast.  The new sedan isn’t quite as distinctive as the love-it-or-hate-it Prius design, though it’s decidedly different from anything else in the Lexus line-up, inside and out.

Despite some earlier reports, the HS250h isn’t a rebadged Prius. In fact, it shares much of its underlying platform with Toyota’s midsize Avensis – essentially a European version of the Camry. So, while it’s designed to slot into the Lexus line-up alongside the IS sedan, the HS is actually a wee bit longer, and a fair bit taller.

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Q&A: Lexus General Manager Mark Templin

It's "a difficult situation for everybody."

by on May.15, 2009

Twenty years after its debut, Lexus is the nation's leading luxury brand, but General Manager Mark Templin sees challenges ahead.

Twenty years after its debut, Lexus is the nation's leading luxury brand, but General Manager Mark Templin sees challenges ahead.

Two decades after it made its modest debut, Toyota’s Lexus division is the solid volume leader in the U.S. luxury market – even though company officials routinely insist they’re not driven to be number one. Lexus has had its setbacks, however, including an unusual, third-place finish in one recent, closely-watched quality survey. What that means, and why Lexus continues to add more hybrids to its line-up were questions posed to the division’s general manager, Mark Templin, by TheDetroitBureau.com’s Bureau Chief Paul A. Eisenstein. These are “difficult times for everyone,” Templin noted.

TheDetroitBureau: When Lexus debuted, you started out with just a handful of dealers.  How big has that network grown, and will you continue adding more?

Templin:  Even now we have just 152 dealers with 225 outlets.  That’s been our model for a long time.  We don’t add dealers to increase volume, we increase outlets to service our customers better.   We don’t want to over-dealer.  We want our dealers to be profitable, so they can put money back into creating an exceptional customer experience.  And that model has worked.  If we wanted to just add volume, there are markets where we could go out and add more stores, but is that the healthiest thing for the brand?  I think not.

TDB: Why not?

Templin:  People say we have great products, but that’s only half the equation.  The product is only part of it.  The customer experience is every bit as important.  You run the risk of diluting that if you go into markets that are too small to support dealers who can put money back into customer service.    (more…)