The good folks who are still convinced that the Japanese car market is closed, can count themselves lucky. Would they have been with me today, they might have doubted their beliefs and strayed from the faith. Today, Lexus finally rolled out its new GS line in Japan. America had already seen it last Summer, and two TTAC testers actually drove the cars.
Today, two straight-laced Lexus executives told reporters in Tokyo that imported cars are so successful that Lexus would like to have some of that success and that they strive to take some of the imports’ growing market share. Kazuo Ohara, Deputy Chief Officer of Toyota`s luxury arm Lexus said:
“In Japan, there is a strong customer segment that is always interested in buying imported cars, and this is the segment we would like to capture.”
The trouble is, those customers are interested in buying German luxury cars.
Kiyotaka Ise, chief officer of Lexus, identified Germany’s Mercedes, BMW and Audi as the darlings of Japanese customers Lexus would love to lure into its showrooms. Easy call, one look at this table says it all:
Japan`s top selling luxury cars, 2011
Indeed, together the Teutonic Top-of-the-line brands sell more than twice as many cars in Japan than Lexus does in its home market.
This won’t change anytime soon. Ohara conceded that it will be a while until Lexus will pry the German iron out of Japanese hands. In Japan, Ohara thinks that this year’s Lexus sales will be only “somewhat higher than the level of last year.”
The growth is supposed to come from elsewhere. “Last year, we sold 404,000 units, and this year, we would like to achieve 510,000,” Ohara said. That is an ambitious 21 percent growth, the same percentage number Toyota has set itself as a target.
But back to the imported cars Japanese like. It’s not that America does not have Kei cars. Hell freezes over before America produces small cheap boxes with pint-sized motors. (Hold your horses, I know that 0.66 liters are a pint and a gulp .) America does not have the big bore luxury cars a rich Japanese clientele craves.
Cadillacs imported to Japan in 2011? 1,392 .
Meanwhile, car imports to Japan rose 22.5 percent this year to 275,644, while the domestic market (ex Kei cars) was down 16.7 percent.