NEWBERG, OR – Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand expects to sell 60,000 units a year of its next-generation ’13 ES sedan, on sale in the U.S. this August.

That’s down from the record 82,867 units delivered in 2007, WardsAuto data shows. But Mark Templin, group vice president and general manager for Lexus in the U.S., says the current target for the nameplate is realistic.

“If you look over the (6-year run of the) last car, 60,000 units a year was our lifecycle volume,” he says during a ’13 ES media event here. Some 25% of the annual total will be the new 300h hybrid variant.

Lexus is buoyant over the prospects for the hybrid, which was introduced at the New York auto show in April, noting its markup likely will be lower than the luxury brand’s other hybrid offerings.

“Our initial (hybrid-share) estimate is 25%. But based on current feedback, we think that may grow really rapidly, especially based on how we’ll price it,” Templin says.

The Lexus GS hybrid is priced $10,000 more than the base gas-engine-only version, while the RX hybrid has a $6,600 markup.

Consumer studies show by adding a hybrid variant to the ES lineup, Lexus could attract a new clientele.

“Our research showed the hybrid was a game-changer for competitive owners and (buyers of mainstream-brand vehicles), who might never have considered an ES or a Lexus before,” Templin says.

The ES hybrid uses a lightly modified version of the current Toyota Camry’s hybrid’s powertrain, a 2.5L DOHC Atkinson-cycle 4-cyl. and a 245V nickel-metal hydride battery. The system is estimated to achieve a combined 200 hp and 40/39 mpg (5.9/6.0 L/100 km) city/highway fuel-economy rating from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new ’13 ES 350, mostly carrying over the current ES’s 3.5L V-6 gas engine, also is expected to do well on fuel economy, with a 21/31 mpg (11.2/7.6 L/100 km) city/highway estimate.

That’s up from 19/27 mpg (12.4/8.7 L/100 km) in the current model, and bests competitive models with downsized 4-cyl. engines, such as the 1.8L Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Fiat 500, Lexus touts.

The new ES will have three grades. Lexus forecasts the Luxury trim will account for 50% of sales, with the Premium and Ultra Luxury levels commanding 45% and 5%, respectively.

Premium ES and hybrid model have real wood trim on the steering wheel and shift knob, NuLuxe imitation-leather seating and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Luxury grades add high-intensity-discharge headlamps, genuine leather, a power rear sunshade and climate-controlled seats. The Ultra Luxury ES comes equipped with rain-sensing windshield wipers, a heated wood steering wheel and manual rear door shades.

Stand-alone options include a blind-spot monitor system, which is operative starting at 10 mph (43 km/h) and uses quasi-millimeter wave radar to detect vehicles in the adjacent lane. Lane-departure alert and navigation also are available on the new ES.

Templin says Lexus will market the ’13 model ES using the theme “Unforgettable” to convey the message “that the new ES is impossible to ignore and impossible to forget.”

Two TV commercials will showcase the car’s new exterior and interior design, as well as improved handling and the hybrid’s fuel economy. Lexus also will market the ES at lifestyle events, including the 2012 U.S. Open golf championship in San Francisco.

Pricing for the ’13 ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid will be announced closer to August. The current ’12 ES 350 starts at $36,725.

Lexus assembles the ES at its Kyushu, Japan, plant. Half of the initial ’13 production will be allotted to the U.S., with the rest bound for China, Russia and the Middle East. The ES in China will be sold with a 2.5L to avoid taxes on vehicles with large engines, Templin says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com