Lexus Is Pretty Confident Buyers Will Go Green If They Don’t Have to Pay the Price

2018 Lexus NX front – Image: Lexus

As we told you last fall, Lexus took a hatchet to the price of its hybrid NX crossover for 2018, greatly narrowing the gap between it and its NX300 sibling. The model’s entry price fell by more than $2,000, essentially making the hybrid powertrain a $950 option on an all-wheel drive NX.

It’s not a strategy designed to get more hardcore greenies into Lexus dealers; rather, it’s a way of swaying the modestly eco-minded into springing for that all-important “h.” Despite early signs of success, Lexus is holding off on taking its pricing gambit brand-wide.

The NX isn’t alone in offering a more-affordable hybrid option. Lexus’ popular RX crossover, which adds a lengthened three-row variant in April, sees a similar drop in hybrid pricing for 2018. A stock RX 350 with all-wheel drive retails for just $1,025 less than the RX 450h. On the RX 350L, going hybrid commands a $1,550 premium. Prior to 2018, the price gap between hybrid and non-hybrid RX models neared six grand.

“We have your true environmentalists, and you can certainly appeal to that group of buyer, but to broaden the appeal we felt compelled to bring that premium down,” said Lexus general manager Jeff Bracken in an interview with Automotive News. “The No. 1 focus was we want to make this powertrain available to more people.”

The automaker hopes to improve its corporate fuel economy through boosted hybrid sales, thus keeping it in the EPA’s good books.

2018 RX 350L

Key to the new strategy is equipment. Instead of heaping goodies on hybrid models, further inflating MSRPs, the brand’s hybrid crossovers carry the same standard equipment as the gas-only versions. While the ES soldiers on under the old content strategy, buyers kicking the tires on the new LS sedan or LC coupe can expect to pay an extra $4,510 for the hybrid powertrain and nothing else.

Bracken wouldn’t say whether the next-generation ES, expected later this year, will join its stablemates in the discount hybrid game.

In January, hybrids made up 13 percent of U.S. NX sales, up from 7 percent a year earlier. While overall NX sales rose 41.9 percent last month, sales of the hybrid model rose 155.9 percent. Sales of the RX line increased 22.1 percent in January, with sales of the hybrid variant up 31.6 percent.

[Images: Lexus]