Lexus created the luxury hybrid craze, if a craze is what you’d call the media’s appetite for super-expensive vehicles with mediocre fuel efficiency. Like Chrysler with the minivan trend or the Ford Explorer with SUVs, being there at (or near) the beginning is one way to reserve a chunk of buyers for your product.
However, at the top end of the luxury hybrid sedan segment, a category previously filled by Lexus alone, Toyota’s luxury partner is receiving two high-profile competitors. In three-pointed star showrooms, the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid brings alarming value to the playing field. In a few months, the BMW 7 ActiveHybrid will be positioned in between the V8 and V12-engined 7-Series sedans.
Surprisingly, a buyer shuttling from the BMW dealership to the Mercedes-Benz store over to the Lexus showroom will find the most expensive luxury hybrid sedan at the end of his search. BMW plans to introduce the 7-Series ActiveHybrid $103,125. Mercedes-Benz has already begun selling S400 Hybrids at the bargain basement price of $87,950. Lexus? Well, the awkwardly named LS600hL starts at $108,800. That’s $43,420 more than the MSRP on the Lexus LS460, a very luxurious and capable car in its own right. You could have an LS460 and a Lexus IS350 plus a few thousand dollars in change instead of an LS600hL.
But I digress. Isn’t the conversation surrounding luxury hybrids supposed to be all about fuel economy? Ha! Give me a break – people buy these luxury limos with a hybrid badge so they can tell their Orange County friends that they’ve got the best of both worlds. “Protect” the environment while basking in luxury, they say.
Check out the Numbers below for the real deal stats on how much OPEC is being harmed by the trend toward fuel-saving luxury hybrid sedans. Assume, for the sake of consistency, luxury hybrid owners are driving 12,000 miles per year while paying $3.00/gallon for premium fuel.
21 –miles driven on every gallon of gasoline in a Lexus LS600hL
19 – miles driven on every gallon of gasoline in the strictly internal combustion-powered Lexus LS460L
61 – gallons of premium gasoline saved in one year by opting for the Lexus LS600hL over the Lexus LS460L
21 – miles driven on every gallon of gasoline in the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid
18 – miles driven on every gallon of gasoline in the non-hybrid Mercedes-Benz S550
96 – gallons of premium gasoline saved in one year by opting for the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid instead of the Mercedes-Benz S500
20 – miles driven on every gallon of gasoline in the BMW 7 ActiveHybrid based on BMW’s estimates of the yet-to-be-released EPA figures
17 – miles driven on every gallon of gasoline in the purely V8-engined BMW 750i
106 – gallons of premium gasoline saved in one year by opting for the BMW 7 ActiveHybrid rather than the BMW 750i
3.52 – dollars saved each week by choosing the Lexus LS hybrid over the V8-only Lexus LS
3,541,458 – millions of dollars that would have been saved in fuel costs alone if every Lexus LS sold in America in 2008 were an LS hybrid
5.54 – dollars saved each week by choosing the Mercedes-Benz hybrid S-Class over the S550, an exclusively V8-powered luxobarge
5,124,079 – millions of dollars that would have been saved in fuel costs alone if every Mercedes-Benz S-Class sold in America in 2009 were an S400 Hybrid
6.12 – dollars saved each week by choosing the BMW 7-Series hybrid instead of the normal BMW 750i
2,944,933 – millions of dollars that would have been saved in fuel costs alone if every BMW 7-Series sold in America last year had been a BMW 7 ActiveHybrid
840,090,160 – extra potential gross profit at Lexus in 2008 had the 19,348 buyers in America who opted for an LS460 chose an LS600hL instead
64,922,550 – bare minimum lost in gross sales dollars earned at Mercedes-Benz in 2009 had every S-Class buyer in America chosen an S400 Hybrid instead of an upper-tier S-Class like the S550, S600, S63 AMG, or S65 AMG