Lexus plans faster CT

words - Bruce Newton
Hybrid hatch misses out on sales to performance fans
Japanese luxury brand Lexus is considering an expansion of its entry-level CT family with higher performance at the top of the agenda.

The Toyota Prius-based CT is currently only available as a 200h petrol-electric hybrid. It is scheduled for its first facelift in 2014 and the second generation is expected in 2016.

There has been speculation a CT sedan is being planned as part of a strategy to combat the surfeit of small car offerings from rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW such as the A-class and CLA and 1 and 2 Series.

But one of Lexus’ most senior global executives has expressed concerns about downsizing while strongly hinting to a CT with more kilowatts is in the pipeline.

“We are not going to put that many eggs into that small car basket, but I think that as we develop CTs for the future you are going to see us get us a lot more bang for our buck,” Templin said.

“I think the CT got a reputation for its handling steering and suspension system. If we had had a second powertrain in that car, I think sure we would have done a lot more volume.”

The CT 200h went on-sale in Australia in February 2011, powered by a 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain that produced 100kW and 142Nm. It averages 4.1L/100km but takes more than 10 seconds to accelerate from 0-100km/h.

Lexus sold 1311 CTs in Australia in 2011, 1500 in 2012, but so far in 2013 the sales rate is down 41 per cent. There are four versions of the five-door hatchback, with pricing spread from $39,990 to $57,990.

“You had the people who loved the CT’s hybrid powertrain, the markets that need that kind of powertrain, and the people who are eco friendly or want to save that money on gas and that’s great,” said Templin

“But we missed a segment of the market for people who want fast cars; because a lot of people liked the looks and liked the way it drove so they wanted something faster. So yeah sure in the future, I hope we can account for that.”

There are a number of ways Lexus could go about boosting performance of the CT; a larger petrol-electric hybrid would be one option, as would the new 2.0-litre turbo-petrol 200t engine that makes its global debut at the Tokyo auto show in the LF-NX concept this month.

Despite all that, Templin said launching the CT with one hybrid drivetrain had been the right decision, even if it had cost sales.

“It helped us solidify our place in history when it comes to the development of hybrid powertrains and showing that luxury and hybrid go together,” he said.

“It was just a natural step for us to launch a car that came 100 per cent as a hybrid. That was a good play. But in the future? Maybe we need both.”

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Published : Monday, 11 November 2013
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