TOKYO – Toyota’s Lexus brand is considering the addition of at least two dedicated hybrid vehicles to its rapidly expanding product portfolio, including a premium-priced companion to the Toyota Prius and a mid-size crossover that could be the industry’s first dedicated gas-electric CUV, according to www.edmunds.com.
Lexus currently offers both conventional and hybrid versions of several existing models but does not market a dedicated hybrid-only vehicle such as the Prius. The next-generation Prius, which is slated to go into production in Japan in less than a year, is expected to make its world debut in January at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. It will be joined at the Detroit show by a new Lexus hybrid, which may also feature Toyota’s first use of advanced lithium-ion batteries in place of the current nickel-metal-hydride system. It is not known if the Lexus hybrid concept for Detroit will be a crossover or a five-door hatchback sedan.
The new Prius is expected to go on sale in North America in late-spring 2009, as a 2010 model. The first dedicated Lexus hybrid won’t arrive in dealerships until calendar year 2010, and a second Lexus hybrid is tentatively slated for production in 2011. All three models reportedly will be built on an updated version of Toyota’s corporate mid-size platform, which underpins the Camry as well as the Lexus RX. The RX currently is offered in both gas and hybrid variants.
The new hybrids from Toyota and Lexus are expected to be powered by a 1.8L four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to an electric motor, according to www.edmunds.com.
The Lexus companion to the Prius will get unique sheet metal with distinctive Lexus styling cues. It will be equipped with more luxurious features and will likely be priced at more than $30,000.