Lexus is once again taking aim at plug-in vehicles by emphasizing the perceived challenges of recharging batteries, rather than simply filling up with gas or hydrogen. Only this time, Toyota's luxury division appears to be zigging while everyone else is zagging. Of course, the nameplate can use all the help it can get when it comes to hybrid sales.
First highlighted by Green Car Reports, Lexus has added a banner to the website of its hybrid vehicles that says "Always Charged. Always Ready." That's a not-so-veiled shot at plug-in vehicles, a sector where Toyota has minimal exposure. Lexus also notes of its hybrid vehicles that there's "nothing to plug in."
Of course, there may be sour grapes at play. Through September, sales of its five hybrid models in the US dropped 17 percent from a year earlier to about 21,500 units, and September was particularly tough as hybrid sales plunged 34 percent to almost 1,800 units. Even so, the third quarter likely represented a record when it came to plug-in vehicle sales. We say "likely" because Tesla doesn't break out its US sales, and not all automakers disclose sales of their plug-ins. We calculate that sales for the quarter were at about 36,000 vehicles, up 38 percent from a year earlier.
For now, Lexus doesn't sell a fuel-cell model, though it may sell a fuel-cell version of the Lexus LS full-size sedan. Toyota, of course, offers the Mirai, which has moved about 710 units this year.
Lexus has gone down this proverbial road before. In 2014, the brand unveiled a similar campaign that highlighted how long it took to recharge EVs, and was ultimately taken to task by electric-vehicle advocates Plug-In America. Lexus apologized for offending anyone and said it'd review content related to hybrid advertising. Doesn't seem like an apology is in order this time out, but that doesn't mean that it's a good strategy.