A change in boardroom attitudes to hybrid motoring is boosting sales of ‘performance’ Lexus cars across Europe, writes Maurice Glover.
Company chief executives are responding to growing concern about airborne pollution by turning in traditional luxury cars to the new breed of premium saloons and sport utility models featuring petrol-electric powertrains.
As a result, hybrids now account for one third of the cars sold in the region by Lexus, said European vice president Karl Schlicht when the Japanese brand launched the world’s first V8, all-wheel drive hybrid model.
“The people who drive big cars are starting to feel uneasy. They still want the space and comfort, but want to be seen to be going green. It is only two years since we introduced this technology to the premium market, but our RX 400h and GS 450h models both set all-time monthly sales records in March and now represent one third of our registrations.
“Those who doubted that hybrid technology has the potential of being a break-through technology are changing their minds remarkably quickly. Now hardly a week passes without another major automaker announcing future hybrid plans. That not only vindicates our strategy – it means more customers are coming to demand the advantages offered by this technology,” he said.
Due to go on sale in October priced from around £80,000, the new LS 600h limousine marries a five-litre petrol engine with a two-stage electric motor to develop 445bhp.
Lexus claims its performance matches that of a normally aspirated six-litre car and top speed is limited to 155mph, but economy in the combined cycle is 29.7 mpg and emissions are 219 g/km.
“I think we’re offering the supreme feel-good experience here. We have a flexible basis which will be further developed – this is a sunrise technology with the light on the horizon, as opposed to the sunset being approached by other engine technologies.
“In a relatively flat European premium market, we’ve just reported sales of 14,600 in the first quarter, showing a growth of 17 per cent. As our business continues to grow, we will expand our hybrid drive line-up.”