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2009 Lexus LS 600h L (hybrid)  (Source: Sacramento Scoop)

2009 Lexus GS 450h (hybrid)  (Source: Auto Spectator)

2009 Cadillac Escalade hybrid  (Source: Auto Channel)
Toyota's Lexus brand and GM are particularly catching the hybrid discount fever

If you want to buy a luxury hybrid, now might be the time to do it.  While the 2010 Toyota Prius -- an affordable third generation hybrid sedan -- may be burning up the sales charts, luxury and large hybrids are getting burned by the market.  As a result, dealers are issuing large discounts in hopes of buoying the sinking sales.

One of the problems is that gas prices have been relatively low.  Across much of the U.S., gas has fallen to $2.50 a gallon or less, down from highs of $3 or even $4 per gallon of a year or two ago.  At the same time, the rich aren't quite as rich as they once were -- due to the recession -- and luxury vehicle sales across the board have dropped accordingly.

The combination has created a perfect storm for the luxury hybrid industry.  While some Toyota dealers may be "adjusting" Prius prices past their MSRP, Toyota's own Lexus brand is making cuts to try to sell its hybrid models.  The Lexus LS 600h L, a high end luxury sedan which starts at $106,035 -- making it the most expensive hybrid on the market -- has received a whopping $10,000 incentive.  And Toyota is giving $1,000 to sales associates who can sell one of the beasts, as an extra incentive to try to move them off the lot.

Through September, sales of the entire LS lineup were down 53 percent, though Toyota did not specify exact sales numbers for the hybrid variant.  A $3,000 discount and $1,000 sales associate bonus have also been issued on the 2009 Lexus GS 450h midsize sedan.  Starting at $56,550 the GS isn't as costly, but its sales have still been hurt significantly by the collapse of the luxury market.

Another brand that has been taking a lot of damage is GM's Cadillac brand.  Traditionally a strong seller, the Cadillac Escalade SUV has seen its sales drop of 44 percent.  The 2009 hybrid Escalade, which starts at $73,135 has seen five figure discounts offered from some retailers, surpassing even Toyota's aggressive luxury brand discounting.  The hybrid had previously looked to be a promising seller, thanks to GM's hot .

GM's Chevrolet and GMC hybrid variants of the full-size SUV platform have also been hurting.  While these vehicles are not targeted at the luxury market, they come with relatively high prices, approaching the cost of a luxury sedan.  GM has also been aggressively discounting these models.

Currently, according to Edmunds.com, luxury vehicles carry an average discount of $6,551 per vehicle.  This is second only to premium sports cars.





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