A Toyota executive said yesterday in Detroit that the Japanese company is expecting to sell about 25,000 units of its first hybrid-only model for its luxury brand.
Although it has sold hybrid versions of its GS and LS sedans and RX crossover for years, the Lexus HS 250h is the luxury brand's first dedicated hybrid. The HS is scheduled to go on sale this summer.
"More than 60 percent of entry luxury sedan buyers said they would consider hybrids, and this is a segment nobody's in right now," said Lexus' North American Vice President Mark Templin.
Toyota does have one competitor to worry about when it comes to the Lexus HS: its own media darling, the Prius. The 2010 Toyota Prius is all new, and prices can stretch into the $30,000s in its higher trims when options are added. Potential HS buyers may be lured into a fully trimmed Priusbefore they consider jumping into the HS.
Templin says Toyota believes the market will recover soon enough for Lexus to meet its goal.
"We feel like we've hit the bottom in the last three to four weeks," he said. "People are feeling better about the economy, and our dealers are asking for more cars. That's a good sign."
Templin was also coy about the possibility of a coupe version of the Lexus IS.
Jalopnik asked him: "Since all the hard work of getting a two-door form factor has been done with the IS convertible, is there a possibility of an IS coupe in the future?"
"Obviously, we're making no announcements today, but it's certainly something we should study carefully," Templin responded.
Lexus has long envied the broad appeal of one of the IS model's biggest competitors, the BMW 3-series. With convertible, coupe, sedan, and wagon body styles, the 3-series regularly outsells the IS, which comes only in sedan and (as of this year) convertible body styles. Adding additional body styles could be the key to achieving 3-series-like sales for the IS.
So far this year, BMW has sold 34,525 3-series models, while Lexus has sold 12,216 IS models.