By on March 8, 2010

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.

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23 Comments on “Lexus CT200h Coming Stateside After All...”

  • avatar

    This is not a good idea. I’m sure the CT is a good car, but it’s not a North American market-appropriate Lexus, much like the Mercedes A-Class or Audi A2 don’t work here, either. Heck, the HS250 barely makes the grade.

    Hybrid intenders who want a hatchback body will just buy a Prius; they’re not Lexus people. Hybrid buyers who care about the badge will get an HS250 but will pine for either an ES or IS hybrid instead. This car is Honda-like in it’s demonstration of misunderstanding of the market.

  • avatar

    Eddie Alterman’s March editor’s letter in C&D touched on Lexus’s lack of focus. While the IS-F and particularly the LFA are great cars, he believes they’re a distraction, and I’m inclined to agree. The most successful non-reactionary Lexus is and continues to be the dowdy RX. Re-badging a Prius hasn’t turned out so well, so we’ll see if rebadging a Matrix will do the trick. I kind of doubt it, and it just seems like another addition to a Lexus line that seems lost.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian E

      Actually this is much closer to a rebadged Prius than the HS250h is, at least in terms of powertrain. The CT200h produces 134hp total, just like the Prius; the HS250h produces 187hp, just like the Camry Hybrid. The HS250h is based on the Avensis platform. I have no idea what the CT200h is based on.

    • 0 avatar

      Which vehicle is a rebadge of a Prius? It certainly isn’t the HS250h, if that is what you are implying. The CT is more likely to be a reskinned Prius than a Matrix as the two at least share a powertrain and likely similar size.

    • 0 avatar

      My assumption of Lexus’ foci are luxury, high quality, advanced technology, and high quality. Selling only large luxo-barge cars would be foolish, as it would alienate everyone who wants something smaller. Similarly, focussing only on cushy cruisers and not selling any sporty models would eliminate potential customers.

      So, I don’t see the CT200h as an example of Lexus losing focus like GM did with cars like the Cadillac Cimmaron, which lacked luxury and quality.

      The Lexus ES, RX, & HS cars are not simple rebadges of Camry, Highlander, and Prius. With the ES and RX, there are significant changes to the interior, as well as to the sheet metal. The HS has a different engine and body from the Prius.

      I agree that they need an ES hybrid in the line-up, possibly as a replacement to the existing version, to keep the lineup simpler.

  • avatar

    Funny that a 2.0 liter engine is huge in Europe, but “2.0 liter performance” in the USA sounds like an oxymoron. Small cars start at 2.3 liters at least, while in Europe 1.2 DI with super charging and turbo is the new 1.6…

    Whatever, at least we’ll see if it is the same or decontented

  • avatar

    I don’t think this premium Mazda3 will be a big success here, but I guess time will tell…

    • 0 avatar

      The Mazda3 isn’t premium. It’s nice, but as it’s MSRP implies it’s not appreciably nicer, trim for trim, than the Honda Civic or Hyundai Elantra. The hotter 3’s appeal to a demographic that values sportiness

      This will be much more expensive, about as sporty as a base 3 and sells to a demographic that values comfort.

    • 0 avatar

      psarhjinian, I think you misunderstood ott. He isn’t saying that the Mazda3 is a premium vehicle, he’s saying the CT200h nothing more than a premium version of a Mazda3 type vehicle.

      You are spot on about the Lexus demographic, they value comfort.

    • 0 avatar

      Duly noted. I mis-parsed the sentence’s meaning.

    • 0 avatar

      Except for the lack of a stupid Pokemon grille this thing’s a dead ringer for the Mazda 3.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    From the photos I’ve seen, that hybrid car might be “ugly” or “distinctive.” If it’s the latter, then it might do well.

  • avatar

    As someone who is currently driving a value hatchback, I hope this is worthwhile. Sometimes the Fit is a bit buzzy and cheap feeling and I miss the comparative luxury of my Volvo S60.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Lexus has a real problem. When Lexus was launched in the 80s, the only competition was BMW and MB. And with these two German brands, there was enough demand for something else that created considerable white space that Lexus saw as an opportunity. They moved with razor-sharp agility and offered vehicles and service that set new standards for the luxury industry. Today, they’re all over the place with uncompetitve $400k cars, poorly rebadged Toyotas, Camry-based egg shaped SUVs and cars that appear to be just ugly little afterthoughts. Infiniti, Audi, Cadillac and even Buick are threatening to knock Lexus off their hill. The CT200h looks like a Matrix, whether it is or not. If I were shopping for a little hatchback, this wouldn’t even be a consideration.

    • 0 avatar

      Today, they’re all over the place with uncompetitve $400k cars, poorly rebadged Toyotas, Camry-based egg shaped SUVs and cars that appear to be just ugly little afterthoughts.

      While I agree that the ES is a poor Camry rebadge how is this any worse than what Acura has been doing for years with the TL? Same goes for the RX and MDX on the Acura side. They are entry level luxury vehicles that sell in massive volume…something the Germans haven’t really figured out how to do.

      The real “luxury” part of the Lexus lineup has always been the LS, and to a lesser extend the GS. Both can hold their own against the Germans and the “new” Cadillac just fine. And neither is an “afterthought.”

      If we’re going to rip Lexus for going down market we should call them on the ES, not a new Prius with leather package.

  • avatar

    Hmmm… Lexus going downmarket. Feels like a screwup. Cadillac never really recovered from its wander into GM cheapthink.

  • avatar

    Whats even more troubling is taking a cheaper Matrix look alike hatch, sticking on a Lexus badge and moving the marque even further down market than the Prius based HS250 dissapointment. This vehicle would do better with a Scion badge thank you very much.

    • 0 avatar

      An NHTSA mfgr production database reveals platform siblings, so we’ll know once the CT200h starts shipping whether it’s a luxury Matrix. The link is below.

      I just looked up the Lexus HS250h and was surprised to see it is based on the COROLLA platform! I knew the two looked similar, but thought Wikipedia’s claim it’s based on the Avensis was true. To see for yourself that the HS250h is a blinged-out Corolla, go to the URL above, then:

      Under search criteria, enter the following:
      * Manufacturer: Toyota Motor Corp
      * Report type: Light vehicle production
      * Reporting Period: Year 2009, Qtr 3

      Click the resulting link to see the filings. Click “next” until you see filings for the HS250h. Here’s what you’ll see:

      Make: Lexus
      Model year: 2010
      Model: HS
      Total production: 4564
      Type code: PC
      Platform: COROLLA

      My guess is once the CT200h ships, we’ll see it listed on this database as being based on the Matrix.

  • avatar

    In the ’90s Lexus led the luxury industry in both quality and technology. The cars were just as dull then as they are now, but they were a welcome refuge from broken down XJ6s and 740s.

    Now? The quality is slipping badly, and I’m not talking about the floor mats. Lexus has followed Toyota down the path of cheap plastic trim and switchgear. The legendary reliability is gone. The GS AWD gets the full black “piece of junk” dot from CR for reliability, and many of their other models are merely average.

    They also lost their tech leadership years ago. In 1998 you could get a Lexus with DVD based NAV and a touch screen. The BMW and Mercedes systems at the time used tiny screens and came with a stack of CDs that you had to switch out as you drove. Audis had no screen at all, just arrows the appeared on the display between the gauges.

    So who was first with HDD NAV with space for music storage, Bluetooth streaming, iPod support and all the rest? Lexus? Nope! The Germans got there first. Several Lexus models still come with CASSETTE DECKS!

  • avatar

    I actually think bringing this car over is a great idea. And as an urban 32 year-old, I am probably directly in their target market. While I wouldn’t get it myself, I have friends (and possibly a wife) who would love it. I do love the idea that a small car doesn’t have to feel like a cheezy econobox, and I’m glad that all manufacturers are starting to support nice small cars.

    After all, no one buying an LS is going to feel like it’s less of a car because of the the 200, just like no one buying a 7-series minds the fact that BMW makes the 1-series, or MB the A-class. They are buying the top of the heap.

    What people do care about is that the brand has no respect, or that it is seen as dowdy. Appealing to youngsters and non-enthusiats may not appeal to those on car sites, but it does sell cars and elevate the brand. If gas goes up, Lexus is going to be looking brilliant.

    GM’s mistake was selling downmarket, as in crap. Crappy cars, not small cars, are what will do in the luxury car manufacturer.

  • avatar

    Based on the picture, I’d take a look at it if I was looking for a fuel efficient wagon. It might steal some sales from the A3 TDI or the Jetta TDI wagon.

  • avatar

    I guess they didn’t learn anything from the IS300 SportCross…

  • avatar

    If they have this and the HS and the IS all within the same price range, it feels like it would be too crowded. I think they should hold off and see if HS sales are good. They can afford to experiment a little because they have the cash cow RX to hold things together. That being said, introducing new models rarely boosts sales for long. They need to update the ES and GS and trickle down some of the tech from the LS.

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