Toyota Gets Word Out Early On '10 Lexus HS 250h


The 2010 Lexus HS 250h will be Toyota's seventh hybrid vehicle when it goes on sale later this summer. But it is the first luxury car from any brand that doesn't have a doppelganger with a traditional engine.

Toyota will launch a full-out campaign for the vehicle in September, according to Nancy Hubbell, who handles Lexus communications. But the company is starting the engine with an online pre-launch campaign at that lets consumers get behind the wheel of the car early.

The site is bifurcated in that it lets customers enter a profile about themselves and why people should vote for them, and also has a separate section for people to vote. The top vote-getter will get a one-year lease of a HS 250h, a weekend at a Fairmont Resort and a Lexus Hybrid Living gift package. The other top 100 vote-getters will get a week-long drive of the HS and a Lexus Hybrid Living gift package.



Additionally, every person who submits a vote will be entered into a random drawing to also win the use of the HS for a year.

Dave Nordstrom Dave Nordstrom, Lexus VP of marketing, holds forth about the car in a video on that site, as well. He talks about the promotion, rallies support for it, encourages people to sign up, and tells candidates how to get votes by hosting a voting party, joining to campaign and posting a video on YouTube. The contest closes July 31.

Lexus says the car, which was unveiled at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, will go on sale with a sticker price between $20,000 and $30,000. Lexus has touted the car as the most fuel-efficient luxury vehicle in the world, although it hasn't given fuel economy numbers yet.

Hubbell says the vehicle will start to appear in showrooms at the end of August "when we traditionally have a sales event going on," she says. The official launch is Sept. 9.

One reason consumer have shied away from hybrids is the idea that such vehicles cost too much at the outset, that consumers would not recoup in gas savings what they paid for the car above what a similar, tradition powertrain vehicle costs; and that such alternative vehicles are too complicated to have long-term reliability and durability. Hybrid sales went through the roof last year, when gas prices did likewise, but things are different now that gasoline prices are down along with the economy.

But market firm IntelliChoice's annual survey of green vehicles suggests hybrid and clean diesel cars, trucks and SUVs have a lower cost of ownership compared to standard versions of the same vehicles. The study, which evaluates things like fuel, maintenance and repair, retained value, insurance, and taxes and licensing fees, said that of the 51 hybrid and clean diesel models now on the market, 35 of them deliver a cost-of-ownership that is somewhat or significantly lower than gasoline versions of the same vehicle.

The survey also said clean diesel vehicles from brands like VW and Mercedes Benz perform better than hybrids in costs and recouping of purchase premium.

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