Page 1: Introduction
DETROIT, MI - Realizing that affluent consumers might be interested in a luxury vehicle that employs a hybrid powertrain, Lexus launched the RX 400h at the 2004 North American International Auto Show. The 2005 Lexus RX 400h will share the same Hybrid Synergy Drive technology as the 2005 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the new for '04 Toyota Prius but in a package slathered in leather and wood trim. We think that this is one of the most significant developments in the automotive industry, a litmus test that seems certain to produce positive results. Why? Think of luxury, and you reflect on effortless acceleration, a spacious cabin, a silky-smooth ride and a sumptuously appointed interior. Now think of the hybrid vehicles you've gotten to know in the past few years. Suffering a bit of cognitive dissonance over those images? We aren't surprised. Hybrid vehicles are usually compact sedans, with economy-minded interiors and agonizingly slow acceleration. For those with means, it takes a bit of a sacrifice to drive one of these vehicles on a daily basis, the logic being (at least until a flock of celebrities showed up at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre for the Academy Awards in a squadron of Toyota Priuses last year) that people who put their purses first and complain the loudest about fluctuations in fuel prices are most likely to buy hybrid vehicles.
Until now, carmakers hadn't considered that those who can afford to buy the nicer things in life might want to be environmentally correct, too. They don't need a gas-sipping car, but they like the idea of consuming fewer natural resources and emitting less effluvium into the atmosphere than your usual ground-pounding SUV without giving up space, comfort or power.