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Zero-emissions Lexus may come out around 2020

NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor is considering adding a fuel cell offering to its Lexus luxury brand around 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics.

     The automaker aims to follow up on last year's launch of the Toyota Mirai sedan, the world's first mass-produced fuel cell car. The Toyota and Lexus brands will share core components designed with manufacturability and costs in mind. The Lexus LS, the brand's flagship sedan, will likely incorporate the zero-emissions technology.

     The Mirai is priced around 7.2 million yen ($59,572), with a roughly 2 million yen green-car subsidy available for purchases in Japan. The gasoline-powered LS starts at around 8.5 million yen. Toyota will factor market trends and cost-cutting efforts into the price of the fuel cell version.

     Engineers are working to lower costs by minimizing the use of platinum in the next-generation fuel cell stack. They are also trying to simplify manufacturing processes, such as a step necessary to prevent hydrogen leaks.

     Toyota aims to lift annual sales of fuel cell vehicles to more than 30,000 units around 2020. The automaker has begun notifying suppliers of plans to ramp up monthly production -- now between 60 and 70 units -- to 3,000 for the next-generation model.

     Toyota anticipates demand for a fuel cell Lexus among affluent consumers who care about the environment.

     Global sales of the Lexus brand, launched in 1989, rose 11% on the year to 583,000 units in 2014. One of the selling points of Lexus, which competes with such European rivals as BMW of Germany, is its environmental-friendliness. By adding a fuel cell Lexus, Toyota seeks to further burnish the luxury marque's image.


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