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Lexus gears up as an all hybrid car

TOYOTA rolled out its first hybrid-only Lexus luxury model yesterday, as the world's top auto maker seeks to turn itself around by pushing the increasingly popular green technology.

Toyota Motor Corp already offers several gas-electric hybrids, including Lexus models. The HS250h, which stands for "harmonious sedan," is the first Lexus available as a hybrid-only, like the Toyota Prius is a hybrid-only model.

Toyota plans to sell 500 HS250h cars a month in Japan, and has already received 3,000 orders, Toyota official Toshio Furutani said at a Tokyo science museum, where the new Lexus was shown to reporters.

The HS250h goes on sale in North America in September, where Toyota is targeting sales of 2,400 a month, despite a languishing auto market.

It starts at 3.95 million yen (US$42,500) in Japan, relatively affordable for a Lexus. North American prices aren't decided, according to Toyota.

"Lexus needs to take up ecological challenges," said President Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota's founder, who took the top job in June. "Harmonious sedan, hybrid sedan - it doesn't matter how you take it. There are going to be many customers who love the sedan," Toyoda said.

Toyota said the HS250h gets 23 kilometers a liter, which translates to about 54 miles per gallon, solid mileage for a luxury sedan. Mileage from United States testing conditions has not yet been released, according to Toyota.

The auto maker has been battered by the global downturn, posting its worst annual loss ever for the year ended March. But hybrids have been a rare boon. More than half of the Lexus sold in Japan have been hybrids, according to Furutani.


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