Toyota’s luxury brand should return to pre-earthquake levels
Lexus sales fell in 2011 so much so that BMW and Mercedes-Benz finished 1-2 in the U.S. luxury market. Lexus has been the leading luxury make for most of the past decade, but an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan last March put a severe crimp on production. Toyota Motors says that its Lexus division has recovered and aims to boost global sales by about 25 percent to more than 500,000 units. That number moves production levels back up to a threshold not seen since before the 2008 global financial meltdown.
While Lexus aims to sell more, it still doesn’t have the credibility it needs in Europe to succeed. According to Reuters, Lexus is suffering from an image problem in Europe as buyers are still much more likely to consider BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi when shopping for a luxury car. Lexus has succeeded in the U.S. as it has learned the ways of Cadillac and Lincoln to succeed, but still doesn’t have the refined image of its European competitors.
Expect Lexus’ image problem to change and 2012 will go down as the year Lexus got its game on. Last month, Lexus offered up pictures of its all-new GS sedan. That vehicle, which until now hasn’t inspired much other then some yawns and ho-hums is a real looker. The new for 2013 model is now on sale in Japan and will go on sale stateside this spring. Its spindle grille, attractive headlamp design, creased hood and more sporting profile should help advance sales. The GS represents Lexus’ new design language and many more updated Lexus models are on the way. Critics such as Christian Seabaugh of Motor Trend magazine have written favorably about Lexus’ new design direction.
Other new Lexus models arriving beginning in February include the 2013 LX 570, its $80,000 full-size SUV. Its changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary, but it will get its own version of the spindle grille. Other models will receive nip/tucks this year with more to follow in 2013.
Although Lexus was a brand designed originally for the United States, it is gradually finding its way around the world. In Australia, Lexus trails the German automakers despite having nine models available. The CT200h, a hybrid, has just been launched down under and may be joined by a high performance edition outfitted with a larger gas engine and larger electric motor offers Automobile magazine. But, that still pales in comparison to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which offer no less than 20 models each.
In Japan, Lexus is a newer arrival and has managed to hold onto its No.1 position selling 8,000 more models than BMW. In 2011, Lexus sold 42,635 units in its home country, 9,000 more than Mercedes-Benz and about double what Audi sales. Still, even with Japanese consumers the big European sedans are the status and luxury kings with consumers.