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One in two Lexus sales to be hybrid

In demand: Sales of Lexus hybrid models grew to 30% of all sales in Australia last year and the Japanese car-maker expects this to climb.

Lexus aims for 50/50 hybrid sales ratio as more petrol-electric cars come on stream

Lexus logo16 May 2012

LEXUS Australia expects its hybrid vehicle sales to peak at 50 per cent of its volume within the next few years – although it could go to 100 per cent ultimately.

CEO Tony Cramb said at this week’s launch of the GS450h hybrid luxury sedan that the hybrid price premium was all but gone, and that Lexus was planning to extend its range of hybrid models, including vehicles not yet announced.

He pointed to the 50/50 chance of a production version of a hybrid sports coupe based on the LF-LC concept shown at January’s Detroit motor show and the possibility of a hybrid version of the volume-selling Lexus IS “in time” as examples of potential hybrid growth avenues.

“Already it (hybrid volume) is a third for us, and when we offer more cars across the range and our competitors start to come in, I think that is all a good thing because it normalises the technology,” he said.

Mr Cramb said Lexus hybrid sales had grown from about 10 per cent before the arrival of the hybrid-only CT200h hatchback in the first half of last year, to about 30 per cent for all of 2011, and up to about 35 per cent year to date in 2012.

“In Australia, there is no plan to go all-hybrid, but in Europe there is actually a plan to go all-hybrid,” he said.

“Lexus of Europe are moving towards that path – I think they are already in the 70 per cent range – and their plan is one day to be 100 per cent hybrid, but there is no plan here.”

Mr Cramb said the Australian market was different to Europe, with Lexus research pointing to potential for about half hybrid sales in the current environment.

 center imageFrom top: Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb, Lexus RX 450h and Lexus LS600hl.

“I guess one day it could be 100 per cent if we move away from petrol engines, but I think in the current environment, and what you can forecast in terms of what the consumers are going to want, I think a hybrid drivetrain option will appeal to half the customers as the technology commercialises,” he said.

Mr Cramb said Lexus sales had been disappointing in the first two months of this year, but had recovered in March and April with the arrival of the all-new GS petrol variants.

He said the debut of the GS450h hybrid this month, a “refreshed” RX mid-sized SUV range coming mid-year and a “very significant change” to the LS large sedan late in the year would maintain the momentum through 2012.

Mr Cramb declined to predict a sales figure for Lexus this year, saying only that it would be up on last year’s tally of 6347 vehicles.

So far this year, Lexus is running 5.1 per cent ahead of the same period last year, with the CT range up 33 per cent, the GS up 400 per cent and the LX up 34 per cent, but the brand’s mainstream IS range is down about 14 per cent.

Last month, RX sales recovered after a slow start to the year, becoming the second-best-selling Lexus model after the IS in April, with 193 sales, bringing its 2012 sales deficit back to just 0.4 per cent.

“The car that started slowly for us was RX, but it is now back on track,” Mr Cramb said. “We had a terrific month last month, and it is going well again this month.

“IS has been going along OK, and CT has been terrific. The extra injection of GS has been just exactly what the franchise needed.

“So, our March and April were very pleasing, since the launch of GS, and we seem to have turned the corner. It has given us a bit of a spring to our step.”

Mr Cramb said the $99,900 price for the GS450h Luxury model was a $10,000 premium over the equivalent petrol GS350 Luxury, but the GS450h included a range of added features that accounted for most of the premium.

“The hybrid premium is all but gone,” he said.

The RX and LS are both expected to get sportier F-Sport variants as part of their facelifts this year.

The LS is expected to get the most significant change, with a major “re-skin” of the current platform, incorporating the new “spindle grille” grille design that made its debut on the GS.

The RX also is expected to get the new look, although changes will be more modest.

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