More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s Lexus brand officially announces a hybrid version of its next-generation GS 430 here at the North American International Auto Show.

The GS 430h will follow the planned rollout of the first Lexus hybrid SUV, the RX 400h in March.

Denny Clements, Lexus group vice president and general manager, says more information will come at the New York auto show in March about the model, declining to say if it will go on sale this year.

Advanced orders for the new GS 430 sans hybrid powertrain number 7,500, he says.

Hybrid version of Lexus GS sedan coming.

Clements also declines to confirm a hybrid version of the new IS sedan, coming this fall. “Our view is if (a hybrid powertrain) makes sense in one car it makes sense in many, but we’ll just have to see,” he says. “We’ve got some learning to do.”

Meanwhile, Lexus unveils its exotic sports car concept, the LF-A, which showcases the new direction Lexus design will take. The 2-seat concept is being used to gauge whether Lexus will enter the upper echelons of the luxury segment.

“We’re not arrogant, but our view is should Toyota Motor Corp. have the will to build the finest exotic sports car, we can do that,” says Clements.

“It’s just a question of aligning resources. If we decide to do it, it can be done.”

The LF-A is 2 ins. (2.5 cm) shorter than the Porsche 911 Turbo, but the wheelbase is 9 ins. (23 cm) longer. Its height of 48 ins. (122 cm) is about the same as the Ferrari F430, while its 73-in. (184-cm) width falls between that of the Mercedes-Benz SL55 and Aston Martin DB9.

Clements does not know how Lexus will price the vehicle, should it go ahead with production, but it likely would fall in the $125,000-$150,000 range.

At that price, Clements says volume would be less than 100 units per month.

“I think we need to learn a lot more about the exotic sports car market,” says Clements. “You’re really looking at some number less than 100 a month as far as I can tell. (Exotic sports cars) are fairly limited in volume, pretty much custom made (and) a brand statement.”

Coming off its fifth year of record sales in the U.S., Clements says Lexus, unlike other luxury auto makers, is intent on staying out of the sub-$25,000 segment, insisting the brand has no plans to offer anything below the IS 300 on the car side, at least in the U.S.

“We have plenty of growth potential, and we don’t need to be all things to all people,” he says. “To have a product down at $24,000, $25,000 is not appropriate for us.”

And unlike American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s Acura brand, which will have a cross/utility vehicle smaller than the MDX, Clements says Lexus currently has no plans to slide a CUV in below the RX 330.

“We don’t have any plans right now to bring anything in under RX, but we’ll just have to see what the market says,” Clements says. “I think crossovers are going to be more and more important.”

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com