Tokyo: Toyota rolled out its first hybrid-only Lexus luxury model Tuesday, as the world’s top automaker seeks to turn itself around by pushing the increasingly popular green technology.
Toyota Motor Corp. already offers several gas-electric hybrids, including Lexus models. The HS250h, which stands for “harmonious sedan,” is the first Lexus available as a hybrid-only, much like the Toyota Prius is a hybrid-only model.
Toyota plans to sell 500 HS250h cars a month in Japan, and has already received 3,000 orders, Toyota official Toshio Furutani said at a Tokyo science museum, where the new Lexus was shown to reporters.
The HS250h goes on sale in North America in September, where Toyota is targeting sales of 2,400 a month, despite a languishing auto market.
It starts at 3.95 million yen ($42,500) in Japan, relatively affordable for a Lexus. North American prices aren’t decided, according to Toyota.
“Lexus needs to take up ecological challenges,” said president Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota’s founder, who took the top job in June. “Harmonious sedan, hybrid sedan _ it doesn’t matter how you take it. There are going to be many customers who love the sedan.”
Toyota said the HS250h gets 23 kilometers a liter, which translates to about 54 miles per gallon, solid mileage for a luxury sedan. Mileage from US testing conditions has not yet been released, according to Toyota.
The automaker has been battered by the global downturn, posting its worst annual loss ever for the year ended March, but hybrids have been a rare boon. More than half of the Lexus sold in Japan have been hybrids, Furutani said.
Green cars are getting a boost from tax breaks and other government incentives introduced recently here to help consumer spending. Hybrids are now tax-free in Japan.
On Monday, Takanobu Ito, the new president at Honda Motor Co., Toyota’s Japanese rival, said Honda was beefing up its hybrid lineup. Honda’s Insight, another hybrid-only model, has also been selling briskly since it went on sale in February.
Hiroyuki Koba, chief engineer for the Lexus HS250h, said there are advantages in designing hybrid-only models to create spacious interiors and trunk room. Converting a gas-engine model to a hybrid, on the other hand, presents challenges on where to put the hybrid battery and motor, he said.
“We have what we call intelligent packaging,” said Koba. “This model is made so people can get in and out easily, and drive easily.”