Lexus plans to unveil a front-wheel drive, hybrid-only hatchback at the Frankfurt Auto Show to compete with the likes of the Audi A3 and the BMW 1-series. The car will be the European cousin to the HS 250h, which is expected to go on sale this summer in the U.S.
The new hatchback won't share any body panels with the HS 250h, but it will share the powertrain which will be a higher performance variant of the Prius hybrid system. Lexus' plans represent a shift in strategy for their European hybrid program, which until now has primarily competed with higher displacement diesels.
"Our hybrid saloons are going up against the V8 diesels in Europe. In future we need to compete against the four-cylinder diesels. So we will enter new sectors with low-displacement hybrids. The C-premium [i.e. Audi A3] segment is the fastest growing segment and we must be in it," said Lexus chief in Europe, Andy Pfeiffenberger.
The hybrid hatch is expected to go on sale in late 2010 with a price tag below the IS diesel at about $30,000.
Source: Top Gear