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September 3, 2009

JAPAN: First imported hybrid on sale

Mercedes-Benz Japan has become the first foreign automaker to launch a petrol-electric hybrid in the country after rolling out the S-Class hybrid sedan.

Mercedes-Benz Japan has become the first foreign automaker to launch a petrol-electric hybrid in the country after rolling out the S-Class hybrid sedan.

The ‘S-Class Hybrid Long’ is priced at JPY14.05m and is about 30% more fuel efficient than the previous petrol -only model. It is also the first imported car to be eligible for the Japanese government’s tax breaks for fuel-efficient cars.

BMW plans a hybrid for Japan next summer.

Mercedes-Benz Japan president Hans Tempel said hybrids have become a ”buzzword” in Japan.

”From the marketing point of view, it seems to be easier to sell something which can refer to itself as hybrid,” Tempel told Kyodo News in Tokyo.

It remains uncertain whether top luxury hybrids will be popular in Japan where sales have boomed at the JPY2m price point. Toyota’s new hybrid-only Lexus sedan, the HS250h, is priced between JPY3.95m and JPY5.35m.

Tempel said he hoped the increasing lineup of hybrids and other eco-friendly cars from various automakers will help to stimulate a shrinking domestic market, where many young people have lost interest in purchasing cars.

”If the environmentally friendly technology succeeds in creating a new fascination about cars, that would definitely see a push for car sales,” he said. ”That’s what we desperately need in Japan.”

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