Quick, name the Toyota product least affected by Asian floods and tsunamis? How about the Lexus HS250h? While its junior “dedicated hybrid” brand-mate, the CT200h took a nasty lick straight from its launch, which occurred just as the tsunami hit, the HS has been Mr Reliable. Mr Reliably Unpopular that is: the instantly-stodgy, $37k base price sedan has found between 150 and 300 buyers every single month this year. You can’t pin that on any tsunami, the car is simply a sales stinker. And when high-profit luxury vehicles flop this badly, you have to wonder how it will affect the brand’s the reputation. In any case, I don’t have a [sub] to Wards, so I don’t know why they’re reporting that the HS will be dropped… but I’m not in the least surprised. The market has spoken, it’s time to kill it with fire.
I read TTAC regularly and am debating what to do about getting a new car. The situation is I had a 2001 Volvo S60 which started experiencing transmission “issues” that the mechanic could not replicate, so I traded it for a 09 Fit to get better mileage. The Fit was an excellent appliance car, but felt a bit tinny after the relative comfort and solidity of the S60. The new Lexus CT200h got me excited and my sister-in-law needed a new car so I sold her the Fit and am awaiting the Lexus. However it appears that actually fitting my kids in the back of Lexus won’t work. What would you suggest as a car? I want good mileage, because I have a city commute, a bit of luxury and reliability with not ridiculous repair costs. I had hoped the Mercedes C300 Estate would come here, but it won’t and BMW has me concerned about repairs costs. Could I be happy with a used Lexus SportCross? Please provide your perspective.
Any way you slice Toyota’s sales figures for the past 5 years, its obvious that despite a ballooning product portfolio Lexus is in a world of hurt. Sales are down, the other import brands have improved their quality and buyers seem to be embracing a more performance-oriented (or is that German-oriented?) luxury style. But rather than re-orienting the Lexus brand to directly take on surging BMW, Audi and Mercedes sales, Toyota has doubled down on its major competitive advantage: hybrids.The recently-launched HS250h was Lexus’s first stab at an entry-premium hybrid, but after just a few months on sale it’s already going nowhere fast. With CAFÉ changes looming, Lexus may eventually benefit from an all-hybrid luxury line-up, but in the meantime the very idea of a luxury hybrid needs a shot in the arm. Is the CT200h hatchback hybrid the answer?
Toyota has long insisted that the Lexus HS250h would be America’s luxury “dedicated hybrid” model, while the smaller CT200h would be a Europe-only model. That decision was an presumably based Lexus’s desire to match its US sales success in Europe by offering a unique model that was more attuned to European tastes, hence the CT’s trim, five-door-hatch packaging. But with Toyota and Lexus sales suddenly in trouble in the US, attracting “a whole new buyer to the Lexus brand,” as Lexus flacks put it to Automotive News [sub] suddenly took on a much higher priority. And so, the 1.8-liter Euro-hybrid will bring its “2.0-liter performance with class-leading CO2 emissions” to the US market beginning early next year. As a Euro-market model brought stateside to add youth-upscale appeal that its similarly-positioned US-market brand-mate is struggling to establish, the CT200h’s parallels with the forthcoming Buick Regal are intriguing. That Toyota is taking a page from GM’s product plan-thrashing playbook is just plain troubling.
While America gets a Lexus-badged Toyota Sai as our first entry-premium hybrid car, the Europeans will get this CT200h instead. In addition to better differentiation from the Prius (to this blogger, the HS250h smacks of old Buick-style brand engineering), the CT200h is said to be more driver-focused than previous Toyota hybrids. But then, we Americans are all used to not getting the smaller, tauter, hatchback-ier models by now, right? Right?