Obama Administration Takes Credit for Inspiring Lexus Hybrid SUV--Which Began Production in 2004

Eric Scheiner | July 9, 2012 | 3:24pm EDT
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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) -The Obama administration is taking credit for inspiring Lexus to create a hybrid SUV--even though the automobile company began the well-publicized production of its RX 400h SUV hybrid in 2004--four full years before Obama was elected.

A timeline of the auto company's history, posted on its website, says: "2004-The first production SUV hybrid, the RX 400h, debuts with Lexus Hybrid Drive. U.S. Lexus sales reach two million."

Lexus first announced it would market the RX 400h hybrid SUV at a press conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich., on Jan. 6, 2004.

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"The new RX 400h re-defines the midsize luxury SUV market while raising awareness and acceptance of hybrid gas-electric vehicles among luxury car and SUV buyers," Denny Clements, Lexus group vice president and general manager, said at the SUV's 2004 roll out. "This is truly a breakthrough in terms of hybrid gas-electric powertrains because, for the first time, it adds a new performance dimension to the traditional hybrid advantages of high mileage and low emissions."

Despite the fact that the RX 400h premiered in 2004, Obama administration Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed a different vision of history when he and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson were discussing vehicle fuel standards at the Aspen Ideas Festival on July 3.

“I don’t think the car manufacturers would be manufacturing the cars they are manufacturing today as hybrids, if it weren’t for what the president did in signing the executive order and what Lisa and I have done over the last three and half years about developing C.A.F.E. (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for automobiles and light trucks that will get 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025."

“I think we jump started the ability," said LaHood. "When you see now a Lexus hybrid, no one would have ever predicted that 2 years ago. Every car manufacturer is getting into hybrid. I think we jump started those opportunities."

It was widely reported that pre-orders for the Lexus RX 400h SUV were high, and the vehicle was widely available for sale in 2005. The company made its first hybrid sedan, the GS 450h, available in 2006.

President Obama signed the order for the federal government to raise fuel standards for cars and trucks in May 20, 2010.

According to his biography on the Department of Transportation web site, Ray LaHood became the 16th Secretary of Transportation on January 23, 2009. Before that LaHood was a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Illinois.

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