"The basic idea was to provide a guiltless performance vehicle," says Dave Hermance, Lexus's executive engineer for environmental engineering, for people who didn't want their neighbors to label them conspicuous consumers. And frankly, he adds, a hybrid like the RX gives up some potential fuel economy for much-sought-after performance.
By last count in early 2005, that was good enough to entice about 11,000 buyers for the RX 400h, months before manufacturing had begun or niggling details like price were worked out. "Lexus customers aren't quite as cost-sensitive" as some others in the market, observes Hermance. Those who are might consider the $2,000 federal tax credit that is available for the hybrid versions of the Ford Escape, Honda Civic, and Honda Accord, and for the hybrid-only Toyota Prius and Honda Insight this year. (For more information on the deduction, see www.irs.gov.)
At a time when gas prices seem to refuse to climb down significantly, this trend is quickly picking up speed. Even the Prius has a more stylish, comfortable model slated to roll later this year, along with a hybrid Toyota Highlander, Saturn Vue - even Chevy heavyweights like the Yukon and Tahoe. Read on to find out if (and when) your favorite vehicle will join them.