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Lexus wants more hybrids and a better performance image

Mon, 13 Sep 2010 00:00:00 -0700

Lexus plans to introduce hybrid versions of existing vehicles with each full model change, the brand's r&d chief says.

Leveraging the electric-gasoline drivetrain technology of Lexus' parent company, Toyota, will be key to differentiating the brand from European rivals, said Kiyotaka Ise, Toyota Motor Corp. managing officer in charge of Lexus development.

"We want to introduce it with each new model change," Ise said of plans to offer a hybrid option on current Lexus models. "Compared to Mercedes or BMW, hybrid technology is a key application in the Lexus. That's the most easily understood difference in the brands."

Ise also told Automotive News that Lexus aims to develop a more performance-oriented image.

"Up until now, Lexus has been about calm, stable luxury," Ise said. "From now on it will be more about agility and response, really feeling the braking and acceleration."

Upgrading powertrains and suspensions to make them sportier will play a role in the overhaul, he said.

Lexus currently has two hybrid-only models, the recently released HS 250h and the small CT 200h, which goes on sale in the United States next spring. But most of its volume models, including in the ES and GS, still come in gasoline-only versions.

The Lexus CT 200h targets a new small-luxury segment, represented by the BMW 1 series and Audi A3. Ise wouldn't speculate about entering other niches--offering, for example, an even smaller model.

"It's not that we're not thinking about it," Ise said. "But first we have to see how the CT does."

By Hans Greimel- Automotive News