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Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Lexus wants more hybrids, better performance image

Automotive News reports on Lexus' future model plans.

Automotive News
Lexus CT 200h
The hybrid-only Lexus CT 200h, on sale here in spring, will go up against the BMW 1 series and the Audi A3 in the small-luxury niche. In the long term, Lexus plans to introduce hybrid versions of existing vehicles with each full model change to differentiate the brand from European rivals. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

GOTEMBA, Japan--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." Tweaking power trains 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 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 the 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."

(Source: Automotive News)