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Lexus confirms compact car plan

New baby: Lexus has promised to reveal its first dedicated hybrid model within three months. Will it also be the brand's first compact car?

Toyota Europe chief officially confirms Lexus will build a rival for BMW's 1 Series

27 Oct 2008

TOYOTA Motor Corporation’s European chief has confirmed that Lexus will offer a prestige compact car to rival the BMW 1 Series and Audi A1, confirming an exclusive GoAuto report that uncovered the plan 12 months ago.

TMC senior managing director and Toyota Motor Europe president and CEO Tadashi Arashima told German newspaper WirtschaftsWoche that Toyota’s luxury-car division would compete in the burgeoning compact segment but was still to announce a production date.

“We will have a Lexus in the compact class to offer,” Mr Arashima said in an online version of the article that GoAuto has translated. “We need smaller and more efficient vehicles.” Of the start date, Mr Arashima said there was “still no decision” but emphasised that the premium sub-IS car would play a significant role in meeting European CO2 emission targets.

On that score, Mr Arashima indicated that Lexus would offer more models with a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain, which is a key differentiator from its competitors.

He said the combined sales total of Toyota and Lexus hybrids would be between 50,000 and 60,000 in Europe this year, but was expected to double to 100,000 by 2010.

31 center imageLeft: Lexus RX400h, LS600hL and GS450h hybrids. GoAuto reported in October last year that Lexus had shelved plans to produce a small luxury SUV and would instead build a sub-IS small passenger car, codenamed C-Premium, in sedan and/or hatchback bodystyles from 2010.

A Lexus insider told GoAuto that the entry-level model plan was signed off just prior to last year’s Tokyo motor show.

“The booming small passenger market in Europe has required us to rethink the situation in terms of the sub-RX entry-level SUV we had planned,” the Lexus source said. “In response, we have decided to shift from SUV to passenger car, under the project name of C-Premium.” The article also quoted the group manager for Lexus brand planning Shuhei Miyashita, who told GoAuto exclusively that the widely speculated “new entry-level” (NEL) model was under consideration.

“Yes, of course, smaller cars are a high priority,” he told GoAuto. “Yes, a new entry-level model is a strong possibility. We are always considering smaller, as well as larger, cars.” Toyota’s executive vice-president for quality and R&D Masatami Takimoto also told GoAuto at the time that a compact Lexus was a “strong necessity”.

“When you look at our German rivals, and considering CO2, I believe it is a strong necessity for us to build a smaller model. We have to improve our CO2 performance not only in Europe but in Japan and the US as well,” he said.

“(But) it is not decided. It’s not necessary for us to compete on all levels with the Germans. We have no target date.” It is not clear whether the all-new Lexus compact car will also be the first dedicated hybrid production model from Lexus, which Toyota has promised to debut alongside the third-generation Prius (due here in mid-2009) at the Detroit motor show in January, or if it will be in addition to it.

Read more:

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