Toyota Plans Hybrid Version of Lexus LS430 Luxury Sedan
Toyota, which is expected to start selling a gasoline-electric hybrid sport utility vehicle in the United States next year, also will likely add a hybrid version of its premium sedan, the Lexus LS430, to its expanding line-up of alternative-fuel vehicles, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.A senior Toyota executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the WSJ he has test-driven the hybrid LS430 sedan and found it to be "balanced" between performance and environmental gains a hybrid system provides.As in the hybrid version of the Lexus RX330 called the Lexus RX400h, which is expected to hit U.S. dealer showrooms in autumn 2004, the hybrid LS430 uses its hybrid system in part as a supercharger to help accelerate the vehicle and the hybrid sedan also will provide improved fuel economy, the executive told the Wall Street Journal.The WSJ said the focus on performance is part of Toyota's effort to make hybrid technology more appealing to mainstream customers, and not just environmentalists. Toyota’s initial focus on fuel economy gains with hybrid technology limited hybrid vehicles' appeal more or less to tech-savvy or environmentally-conscious consumers, the report noted.According to the WSJ, Toyota has said it hopes by the middle of this decade to sell 300,000 hybrids a year world-wide, most of them in the United States, while its redesigned Prius hybrid car is expected to start arriving at dealers next month. Toyota wants to expand sales of the new Prius to 36,000 in 2004 from 21,000 this year - an increase of about 70 percent, the newspaper added.The Wall Street Journal said the new Prius will be followed by the Lexus RX400h with a hybrid version of the Toyota Highlander very close behind.An American Toyota executive, who also declined to be named, told the WSJ the car maker is "exploring" the possibility of offering a hybrid version of the full-size Tundra pickup truck.The executive told the Wall Street Journal he believes even pickup-truck drivers who typically pay premiums for big horsepower and towing capacity will care enough about fuel economy that there should be enough demand to justify turning Toyota's next- generation Tundra into a full-fledged hybrid vehicle. The hybrid Tundra pickup likely would arrive in showrooms after Toyota launches the redesigned Tundra pickup in a few years, he reportedly said.