TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. expects to charge hefty premiums - about $5,000 to $8,000 - for its gasoline-electric hybrid SUVs compared with the gasoline-powered versions of the same vehicles.
Lexus dealers in the United States already are taking orders for the RX 400h hybrid, derived from the popular RX 330. The RX 400h goes on sale April 15. A hybrid version of the Toyota Highlander goes on sale in June.
Jim Press, COO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., justified the premium prices in a Detroit interview two weeks ago. He said that many automakers charge premiums for large, powerful V-8s. Press said he believes a growing number of people will pay premiums for fuel-efficient Toyota hybrids, which offer V-8 performance and four-cylinder fuel economy in a V-6 package. Moreover, Press said, the smooth and quiet operation of hybrid powertrains matches the luxury image of Lexus.
In the United States, Lexus will charge $49,185 for the RX 400h, including destination. That is $11,360 more than the all-wheel-drive RX 330, but the RX 400h includes as standard equipment about $6,000 worth of RX 330 optional equipment. So the hybrid premium is about $5,360.
The RX 400h also has equipment not available on the RX 330, such as advanced traction control.
On Tuesday, March 22, Toyota put the Harrier Hybrid and Kluger Hybrid SUVs on sale in Japan. The Harrier is the equivalent of the RX 400h. The Kluger is the Japan-market version of the Toyota Highlander.
In Japan, the top-of-the-line Harrier Hybrid carries a whopping $14,950 price premium compared with the top-of-the-line standard Harrier. But different engines and trim levels exaggerate the premium.
The top Harrier Hybrid starts at ¥4,620,000, or about $43,998 at current exchange rates. The top-of-the-line standard Harrier costs $29,048. The Harrier Hybrid comes with a 3.3-liter V-6 gasoline engine, plus front and rear electric motors, compared with the standard Harrier's 3.0-liter V-6 gasoline engine.