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Lexus lines up bespoke hybrid

Date: 05 July 2007

Rather than a hybrid spin-off of an existing car Lexus' next step into the hybrid world will be a bespoke model to sit alongside its upper medium IS.

"There will be a D-segment hybrid [planned for 2010] in the future but it won't be the IS," Lexus director Steve Settle told BusinessCar. "We'll add a specific hybrid model and leave the IS as a sports petrol and diesel. There will be more focus on interior space than on sports styling and it will have more boot space."

Settle was speaking at the launch of the new luxury LS600h petrol-electric hybrid, which is on sale from October. He predicted that due to demand orders will run into next year, and also claimed that the early order book is dominated by "captains of industry".

"A CEO could drive a Prius but in reality isn't going to do so," said Settle. "The LS600h isn't the best eco car around at the moment but it's significantly better than what's out there in terms of its rivals.

"It's the time to be selling a hybrid, everyone is trying to find their way with CO2 and carbon footprints."

The LS600h should also follow on from its RX400h and GS450h siblings and get the 100% congestion charge discount. "There's no reason why the car won't get a congestion charge exemption," said Settle.

According to Lexus, more than half of the early LS600h orders are conquest sales, with 29% of orders coming from Mercedes drivers and 10% trading in a Bentley. Around a third of LS600h models will be used for chauffeuring, compared with 8% of the petrol LS460.

Lexus is settled at its current 15,000 volume per year, and isn't looking for another jump until the new hybrid arrives in 2010.

Settle is looking at the company's German rivals' massive volume gains in recent years - specifically BMW and Audi - and predicting a time where the Lexus could become the only premium brand.

"With hybrid we think we could become the true premium brand in the UK," he said. "Ten years ago there were clear premium manufacturers, but they're premium volume once you get above 100,000 units, especially if there's pressure to maintain volume."