By on May 7, 2009

As Top Gear puts it, “the HS250h is a rebodied, higher-performance Prius. It’s made for the US market, and was introduced at the Detroit show in January. It is hideous in profile . . . luckily, we won’t be getting it.” They say “luckily” because their version will be an Audi A3/BMW 1 series-fighting compact hatchback. But why make two? In fact why is Lexus competing for the European market at all? Lexus Europe boss Andy Pfeiffenberger offers a confused roadmap. “Our hybrid saloons are going up against the V8 diesels in Europe. In future we need to compete against the four-cylinder diesels. So we will enter new sectors with low-displacement hybrids. The C-premium segment is the fastest growing segment and we must be in it.” Huh?

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40 Comments on “Has Lexus Lost The Plot?...”


  • avatar

    I see a Corolla dressed up in Lexus duds.

    They really have lost the plot.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    In the deep of the fog you can see the new GM in the making…

  • avatar
    dwford

    As GM contemplates a brand defiling Volt clone for Cadillac, Toyota beats them to the punch (again, but in a bad way). When Toyota is ahead of GM in the bad idea dept, worry for Toyota.

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    In the deep of the fog you can see the new GM in the making…

    Damn truth, and it’s been becoming more and more obvious since 2006/2007.

    In 20 years time, it will be Toyota designing rubbish on the scale of 1980s/1990s GM.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It just carries itself like a Cimarron, doesn’t it…

  • avatar
    MrDot

    You see rich-but-eco-conscious people driving Priuses all the time. Lexus smells an opportunity to up-sell them. The trick will be to convince people that the Lexus is just as green- though flaunting wealth is a bit faux pas in those circles.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    Actually I like the looks of the 2010 Prius.

    The Lexus version is much worse.

    OTOH: The Cadillac-Volt rebadge actually is an improvement.

  • avatar

    I don’t see a problem with combining luxury with fuel-efficiency. I reckon when I finally hit the lotto I’ll be looking for something swanky that doesn’t nickel and dime me with operating costs. I would like to see more fuel-efficient and compact luxury offerings, but that’s just me and I recognize that I represent a very small proportion of the buying public.

    Anyhoo, bla bla bla, as long as the HS is tomb-quiet, comfortable, reliable and boring to drive, it’ll be right in the Lexus brandspace. No craziness here, folks. If you wanna see a Lexus with a great big helping of wrong, turn your eyes to the IS F. No comment no the Euro hatch, I don’t know the market well enough.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Don’t knock the Cimmaron, I saw one at a classic car show last weekend. Amazing how good of a job Cadillac did on the J-car platform.
    I thought the HS250h was the hottest car of the recent auto shows.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Nobody but die-hards gripe that the ES lexus is a tarted-up Camry, and that the RX is a tarted up highlander.

    Low priced lexuses are all ABOUT being Tarted up Toyotas. People buy them BECAUSE they are Tarted up Toyotas.

    A Tarted-up Prius is perfect for both image and sales, and that lexus has waited to the 3rd generation of the Prius is actually suprising.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Actually, this makes perfect sense.

    Firstly, Lexus have always had an Audi A3/BMW 1 series shaped gap in their line up. This segment is big business in Europe. I know many people who want a luxury car, but don’t want a big saloon, like a BMW 3 series. Hence, why Audi A3′s are popular.

    Secondly, why play the Germans at their own game? Push the hybrids which Toyota/Lexus are famous for, just like the Germans do with their diesels.

    I like it and would definitely consider one.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I see a Corolla dressed up in Lexus duds.

    They really have lost the plot.

    Well, yes and no. There is certainly a market for a hybrid Lexus. There’s a lot of people who want to either be green or make a statement and want to do it either at less than the price tag of a GS-h, or in a body that look a little less plutocratic, but do want something nicer than the Prius.

    What they probably don’t want is a Corolla-like, which this, sadly, is. I’m surprised we haven’t seen an ES-h; it seems a more natural fit for Lexus. The HS isn’t so much “lost the plot” as “phoned in”.

    Competing in the C-Segment in Europe is a good idea, though, and they’re right that it’s a fast-growing and very broad segment, and one they need to crack if their more costly models hope to get any traction. But this is probably not that car to do it in.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Preserving a brand’s equity and identity are important for long term success of the brand. One only needs to look at the brand equities squandered over thirty years by GM and Chrysler to realize that an “econobox” Lexus is a mistake.

    The HS250h doesn’t look like a luxury car. It looks like an econobox. That will hurt the Lexus “perception” of exclusivity.

    I think it would have made more sense to offer a hybrid version of the ES and then put a turbocharged 4 cylinder in the IS.

    Then again, my opinion probably doesn’t matter since I wouldn’t buy any of the above vehicles.

    -ted

  • avatar
    dwford

    What they probably don’t want is a Corolla-like, which this, sadly, is. I’m surprised we haven’t seen an ES-h; it seems a more natural fit for Lexus. The HS isn’t so much “lost the plot” as “phoned in”.

    Well said. No one in Europe is going to logically choose this over the many other highly developed competitors in the C class.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    dwford

    “No one in Europe is going to logically choose this over the many other highly developed competitors in the C class.”

    20 years ago, people said the same thing about Lexus taking market share away from the Germans….and I was one of them.

    I’m not going to make the same mistake again and bet against Lexus.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    There is some Cimmaroon here, but just a hint. If you park this next to a Prius its not patiently obvious to Joe six pack that it is the same car.

    Given that Hybrids have become the signature technology of the Toyota brand it makes sense to offer them across the whole product portfolio. With the 2.4L Four its more “Honey I shrunk the Camry” than Prius.

    I want to know if the optional “Smug Package” includes a matching set of Lexus Wine Glasses for smelling your own farts?

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    I’m sometimes baffled what the strategy of Toyota is in Europe. The Yaris was clearly a success and the Aygo is one as well (to an extent). I can see the IQ doing well. And there it stops. The Auris (ex-Corolla) never manages to get near the established European competition in terms of sales (and who can blame people for passing it up), the Avensis is basically a minicab in the UK and practically absent everywhere else and as far as Camry goes, they recently removed it from most markets because it was selling worse than Pagani. Their SUVs have been moderately successful for a while but seem to slowly get squeezed out by local offerings as well. Somehow Toyota simply does not manage to make a credible car in the B segment and above that the Europeans would actually like.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    Forgot the Prius, which actually works for them quite nicely…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    So we will enter new sectors with low-displacement hybrids. The C-premium segment is the fastest growing segment and we must be in it.” Huh?

    It sounds as if they are going to use the displacement taxes in their favor. The competition will have higher taxes on their vehicles than would Toyota, because the gas engine in the Lexus hybrids is smaller. That should help to offset the hybrid premium.

    I’m not going to make the same mistake again and bet against Lexus.

    That, in my opinion, is a very wise decision.

  • avatar
    tsofting

    First; do the Germans train their managers to speak un-English; “In future…”

    Second; On a dark street, this abomination will easily be mistaken for a brand spanking new Sebring! Now, that should make Lexota happy!

  • avatar
    dwford

    20 years ago, people said the same thing about Lexus taking market share away from the Germans….and I was one of them.

    I’m not going to make the same mistake again and bet against Lexus.

    You are assuming that Europeans are as dumb and easily pleased as Americans. They are not. Toyotas have been savaged by the European auto press for many years as boring driving appliances, and the customers have agreed.

  • avatar
    meefer

    I own a Lexus, and this car is terrible. Could have plopped a hybrid drivetrain into the IS, would have considered that. This…..eesh.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Toyotas have been savaged by the European auto press for many years as boring driving appliances, and the customers have agreed.

    The main problem for all of the Japanese automakers have in Europe is that franchise laws make it more difficult to open new dealerships there. That, and there have been import tariffs that haven’t allowed the imported models to compete on price.

  • avatar
    Lee

    Here’s an idea of what could/should be done with many Lexi…

    http://englishrussia.com/?p=1032

  • avatar

    This was my impression at NAIAS. Couldn’t believe how cheap and ugly this car was.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    The more I look at Lexus the less I see.

  • avatar
    davey49

    “The HS250h doesn’t look like a luxury car. It looks like an econobox”

    Outside or inside?
    Do you think “luxury” cars have to be large?

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Lee: English Russia is awesome.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    Owning an ES and LS, this car can do nothing but damage the brand. Maybe not as badly as the IS-F, but they’re going where Lexus shouldn’t be. Hopefully they can pull off a Mercedes and be able to offer upscale S/SL/CL next to their diluting hoi polloi A/B/C/AMG models.

    Hyundai’s Genesis and Equus will likely be more Lexus than Lexus if this trend continues.

  • avatar
    Lee

    @WaftableTorque

    Hyundai are actually going to bring 100 Equus sedans to distribute amongst it’s dealerships to gauge public reaction.

    http://www.egmcartech.com/2009/05/07/100-units-of-the-2010-hyundai-equus-coming-to-us-dealerships/

  • avatar

    As GM contemplates a brand defiling Volt clone for Cadillac,

    I don’t see a Volt based Caddy as necessarily brand damaging as long as it’s not a Cimmaron redux. Toyota uses the Hybrid Synergy Drive brand on its Lexus products with no harm to their brand.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I see no brand damage here.

    It’s a luxury car, and it’s (probably) dead reliable.

    What more do you want from a Lexus?

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @psarhjinian :
    Competing in the C-Segment in Europe is a good idea

    But not for Lexus. They don’t have a sufficient dealer network, the diesel they have in the IS is utter crap and Europeans don’t care much for hybrids. (Prius sales in Germany in January: 121).
    Lexus is aimed squarely at making boring, reliable cars for Americans who hate driving but want a posh car. That’s what they should concentrate on.

    @Kristjan Ambroz :
    Forgot the Prius, which actually works for them quite nicely…

    Hey, it outsold the Phaeton for 2 or three months. Wow. Seriously, the Prius has never appeared in the German top 100 sales charts. Never.
    The Auris is not a segment-buster, but some people buy it. German buyers bought 2575 of them in March. That’s not bad for a Toyota, but the top sellers in that segment is the Golf at 23703 units. #2 is the Astra at 8423, #3 the 1-series at 7029, then Focus, Octavia, A3, A-Class, B-Class, Hyundai i30, Kia Cee’d, Renault Megane, Honda Civic… they all sell more than the Auris.
    Compacts selling worse than the Auris are Peugeot 308, Seat Leon, Mazda3, Citroen C4, Mitsubishi Lancer…

  • avatar
    jurisb

    Mirko- the Toyota IS diesel is not crap, it has the best Nm in the world of any comparable diesel engine. Germans still play catch up with this engine.And HS is hard tocompare with Gm, because this is really a Toyota product, with toyota engines etc. they stand behind every bolt there with their reliability and they don`t care what you say , because they will sell these damn things anyway to people who care about commuting, not about fixing. For fixing you have American and british cars( if any british there are left).

  • avatar
    f8

    This thing is ugly and stupid and will sell like hot cakes. Lexus is redefining luxury here, or at least trying to do so

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @jurisb
    Have you driven it? I have. It sucks.
    The gearing is all wrong (They offer two final drive ratios, both wrong), the noise is unpleasant, the fuel economy is the worst in the segment by a pretty big margin, it feels and is much slower than a comparable 320d (with exactly the same power)

    So the Lexus has 400 Nm (like the Mercedes C220…) while the BMW has 350? Maybe… but it doesn’t seem to be an advantage in real life. It has lots of turbo lag, there is NO torque under 2000 rpm, not a lot over 3000…
    Just read this
    http://www.autospies.com/news/L-quipe-Auto-Lexus-IS220d-Roadtest-26968/
    or this
    http://www.channel4.com/4car/road-tests/L/lexus/is05-/is05-.html

  • avatar
    pb35

    When I first heard they were making a Lexus Prius I thought, “cool, a luxurious hatch with great efficiency and utility.” Then I see this thing. There’s zero chance I would consider one of these turds. They will, however, sell like hotcakes in the rich part of the town where I live. Oh well.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    When I first heard they were making a Lexus Prius I thought, “cool, a luxurious hatch with great efficiency and utility.

    It’s not a hatchback.

    I know, I was hoping for a modern-say Eco-Saab, too. I don’t get this car: it’s a more cramped, better trimmed Prius, but it doesn’t work as a Lexus either in North America or in Europe. Hybridizing the ES would have made more sense for North America; doing the same for the IS for Europe.

    It doesn’t even look particularly distinctive (as the Prius does), nor much like a Lexus. It’s a good idea, but terrible execution.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    I have to agree with those who said that Lexus phoned this in. The concept is a good one. I recently looked at the near luxury market and realized that the TSX is the only option for the car buyer worried about fuel economy. They can definitely pluck Acura sales in America with a better design as Acura really screwed up with their new design language.

    I could see folks who buy their daughter a new prius as a graduation present picking this up for mom (because she NEEDS a nicer car). I couls also see it being the new rich kid car for parents who drive a GS or LS. However, it looks like they made it too small. They should have gone with an IS sized car, dropped the IS250 and made the IS niche performance. As it stands, Lexus will likely canabalize some IS250 sales with this car. Especially if it is offered with AWD.

  • avatar
    pb35

    psarhjinian

    It’s not a hatchback.

    That’s my point!


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