We've been curious as to what exactly Lexus was thinking ever since we first saw the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, and drive reports, like those from our own John Voelcker at GreenCarReports, reveal the confusion to be more than skin-deep. Not quite luxury and not quite as efficient as a hybrid ought to be, the car fails to live up to the Lexus brand or the Toyota green rep. And sales are showing it.

There are some buyers for the car, though: a little over 4,500 have been sold so far this year. But that's not on the pace Lexus predicted. The company had expected to sell 20,000-22,000 units of the car each year, but it's looking more like the final tally for 2010 will be under 14,000, according to Ward's Auto.  This is a big change from last year, when demand was high enough for reports to suggest that supplies of the car might run low in the U.S.

Recession isn't to blame here, either, as Lexus had previously lowered targets from the near-30,000-unit range. The real problem might lie in the Prius's position in the market relative to the HS.

Because the HS doesn't deliver as much luxury as you might expect, and the Prius can be configured with some pretty high-end options, there's less qualitative difference between the cars than may be necessary. And with the Prius's superior fuel economy (51/48 mpg versus the HS's 35/34 mpg), it's a no-brainer to choose a loaded Prius for around the same price, or even a few grand less, than the HS.

Continued low gas prices may also be playing a part in slow HS sales, according to Mark Templin, Lexus division's group vice-president, since there's less incentive to reach for a more-efficient (if also more expensive) alternative to a standard entry-level luxury car.

For more on the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, check out our preview of the car here.

[Ward's Auto]