Lexus dealers in the United States had taken more than 9,000 orders for the 2006 RX 400h luxury petrol-electric hybrid SUV by the end of August.

“We’ve received significantly more pre-launch orders for the 400h than we’ve had for any vehicle in our entire 15-year history,” said Lexus general manager, Denny Clements. “Although we’re pleased with the early public response to the 400h, we are mindful of our need to respond to these customers in a timely manner,” he added.

At the beginning of August, with an order bank of 8,000, Lexus told dealers that the 400h’s arrival in showrooms had been delayed a few months from the originally scheduled date in December.

Media reports said the delay would give Lexus time to perform additional checks to make sure the vehicles escape some of the teething problems that have beset other hybrids and build inventories in an effort to avoid the long waiting lists the smaller Prius attracted.

Delaying the RX400h to February meant it would reach dealers early in 2005 as a 2006 model; a December launch would be a 2005 model year car.

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Lexus said that, after pre-production prototypes are evaluated later this month, it will announce specific on-sale launch timing for the US and other markets.

“It’s imperative we provide accurate information to our dealers and their customers regarding the anticipated arrival of these vehicles,” said Clements. “We’re already planning ahead with the development of a new retail ordering programme, and we’ve started a dedicated customer communication system.”

The new customer communication system will correspond directly with wait-list customers on at-least a quarterly basis with updated information about their order. The retail ordering system will allow dealers to assign a customer name to a specific vehicle prior to its production and then track that vehicle throughout the distribution process. This is a first for Lexus and will provide timely updates on the progress of a customer’s order and their expected vehicle delivery date.

Additionally, Lexus Financial Services will extend lease agreements by as much as 12 months, if necessary, to current Lexus owners who have placed orders for a RX 400h. The plan is designed to accommodate customers who have voiced concern that their current lease might run-out before their new RX 400h arrives.