Australian website Car Advice has a statement from Lexus IS chief engineer Junichi Furuyama on why the IS diesel was discontinued in favor of the new IS 300h hybrid:
“In the beginning of [developing] this product, especially for Europe, the CO2 regulations become severe and severe… so we carefully investigated which direction – diesel or hybrid – had potential for the future. Not so right now but in the future,” Junichi Furuyama told CarAdvice.
“Yes, yes [in about 10 to 20 years]. Of course we can engineer a new diesel engine. But we don’t have suitable unit so [we would] have to build new one. We investigated many cases, but conclusion was that hybrid was solution to future severe regulations.
The new Lexus IS hybrid squeezes under the magic 100g/km CO2 barrier in the UK, with its 99g/km figure helping Britons save hundreds of pounds in company car tax.
Furuyama-san also acknowledges the criticism that the four-cylinder hybrid has been receiving (see the reviews from Auto Express & Which Car?):
“The issue is max performance if compared to diesels such as [BMW] 320d – is little bit worse than competitors’ engines, and in Europe there are many criticisms for this IS300h for max power and torque. Diesel has more punch in drive feeling.
“So it is a compromise between consumption/emissions and performance. So we carefully watch the reaction in Europe and also Australia to the hybrid to see if we can compete with diesel competitors or not.”
By becoming a hybrid-only brand, Lexus can now position itself as the main alternative to the German luxury diesels. However, it also sacrifices a potential short-term sales gain in hopes that the brand will be the default choice for hybrid technology in the future.
A bold play by Lexus, and the very definition of a long bet — only time will tell if it was the correct move.