By on July 13, 2012

I’m looking at you …

Obsessions are a menace. The daughter of a friend had a shower obsession. “I have an obsessive compulsive disorder,” she would readily admit, only to continue: “I’ll be right back, I need to take a shower.” Such a pretty girl. And she always smelled so good.

A prime obsession of the auto blogosphere are the sales of the Lexus LFA. Is it sold out? Is it not?

(To avoid killing you with the suspense: It is. Has been since April 2010 when Lexus had its 500 orders long before production started in December of that year. Not interesting? I don’t blame you. Stop reading. There is plenty of other content.)

I encountered this manifestation of automotive OCD during the writing of the story about the LFA production. Before the series could even start, I was taken to task over the claim that all 500 LFA are spoken for.  Somewhat shrill comments stated they aren’t.  Proof presented ranged from eBay links to the counting of LFAs at carshows.

Further research revealed that there is a veritable epidemic of this disorder.

In May last year, Motor Authority, “the luxury and performance leader” of the High Gear family, complained that “only 90 LFAs have been built to date for worldwide sales.” Motor Authority needed to be reminded by Lexus that there had been something called an earthquake and a tsunami (it had brought production of all cars in Japan to a multi-month halt, and turned the Japanese car market into the worst since decades). Like an obstreperous child, Motor Authority continued to write that the LFA “is barely selling at all.”

A month ago, the Detroit Bureau delivered a dissenting view, writing that the LFA is “sold out – almost.” That piece of investigative journalism was picked up eagerly by other automotive media who’s idea of investigative journalism starts with Ctrl-C and ends with Ctrl-V.

To this day, the disorder is keeping discussion pages at Motortrend going. One commenter cited the fact that this discussion only has 12 pages as proof of the underwhelming success of the LFA. After all, “a year ago, a troll thread with LFA in the title would be over 100 pages or locked by now.” (This is your brain on Facebook and Twitter.)

There is one sure-fire cure for this particular kind of OCD: Call and ask.

Don’t call someone at Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S.  They will only know their numbers. You need to invest a few dollars into 011-81 and call Toyota HQ in Japan if you want the global view.

After they had done a few days of research, I was told officially and in writing that the LFA was sold out before production started in late 2010. The 500-unit order limit was reached in April 2010, “there even was a waiting list,” says Lexus International head spokesman Hideaki Homma.

The LFA is built to order, something a customer in Europe or Japan will readily understand: You place an order, they build it for you. In the color and with any special wishes you have specified. This may sound alien to someone who picks a car from a dealer lot, this may sound super alien to someone who orders his supercars from Pimp My Supercar V2, but it is what it is.

Armed with that nugget of wisdom, it becomes clear that all 500 can be spoken for, even if some are still being made. Sometimes, it takes a certain degree of maturity to appreciate the fact that “signed, sealed, delivered” can be many months apart.

And what about the handful of LFAs that pop up on eBay?  This is something Lexus is not eager to talk about. Not because it reflects badly on them. From placing an order in early 2010 to today is a long time, and a few former high-flyers have fallen on tough times. If people default on mansions, not picking up your supercar when it has arrived is conceivable.

That, however, is a sad and boring story, and why let a phone call get in the way of intrigue and innuendo?

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22 Comments on “The Last Word On LFA Sales. Or: How To Cure OCD With One Phone Call...”


  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I am not sure why anyone even cares about this. It is painfully obvious there are plenty of extremely wealthy d-bags who will buy pretty much anything that is exclusive and can be used to show off how wealthy they are. This car is perfect for that, even if you don’t care at all about the performance. I imagine finding 500 of those buyers was pretty easy.

    • 0 avatar
      Sky_Render

      I would like to think that all 500 of those beauties will be hot-lapping the Nurburgring and/or other road courses around the globe, but sadly I think you are far closer to the truth.

  • avatar
    hairy

    This car isnt a failure based on whether or not it sold out its 500 ship production run, this car is a failure because it costs 375k. While its nice Lexus learned how to use carbon fiber, they should have invested in how to make it cheaper so it might have had relevance outside this bloated 3400 pound 2 seater.

    To put this in perspective, you can have a Lexus LFA, or you can have a Viper ACR to go around the ring faster, a porsche 911 turbo to pick up girls with, an m3 as your daily driver, and a cadillac escalade for when you finally marry one of those girls.

    Great series and I enjoyed reading it, but it just leaves me scratching my head as to why this project wasnt canceled years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      It wasn’t cancelled because Lexus wanted to learn all those things which you just took them to task for not learning. They now have knowledge on how to make the process cheaper, and on where their research needs to go. Without the LFA, the knowledge wouldn’t have been gained, and the next steps aren’t possible. I don’t think you read the remarks by Tanahashi about what comes next and why.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Juicy Sushi is right. You need to consider the future of the automobile. The whole point of developing the LFA was the development process itself. It was mostly an R&D project, not a ‘Ring time marketing gimmick. Sure you can go faster around the ‘Ring in a Viper ACR but at the end of the day you are still in a freaking Dodge.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      From Bertel’s series it appears that Lexus did not use cost-based pricing to price the LFA at all. It appears that it used some sort of market-based pricing (i.e. what are comparable cars being sold for?) Moreover, the fact that the entire 500 car production run was sold out in advance suggests that, if anything, it was Lexus “leaving money on the table.” They could have charged more.

      Equally obvious from Bertel’s piece was that the car was an engineering exercise in how to build structural composites (as opposed to the fiberglass skin on a Corvette, which is not structural). The engine, transmission, etc. was state of the art, but the body advances the state of the art.

      That, I think, was the point of the project from the company’s perspective. In doing so, they acquired know-how that is unique.

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        Agreed!

        Moreover, while Toyota doesn’t appear to have made any significant advances in composites themselves, they developed the expertise to produce it in just a few short years, from scratch no less.

        From there, they can hopefully figure out how to scale and speed it up.

    • 0 avatar
      Fat Man Of La Mancha

      “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    Some people and companies are driven in the pursuit of excellence.
    Not every human endeavour needs to make a profit.

    We are fortunate that great people like Howard Hughes all the way to Elon Musk don’t think that way. They did want financial success, but I would believe they are more driven by the innovation.

    It is usually not the invention or process itself that becomes the benchmark of success, it is what spins off from it.
    And this is probably how Toyota justified it.

    Not all these cars are bought by a Dousche, I am sure there is a large percentage who would appreciate all the engineering and workmanship every time they look at it or drive it. I know I would.

    • 0 avatar
      hifi

      “Some people and companies are driven in the pursuit of excellence.
      Not every human endeavour needs to make a profit.”

      I think that’s part of the problem with this car. This is supposed to be Toyotas idea of the perfect car. It’s supposed to be the no-holds-barred example of what fat-pocketed Lexus/Toyota can achieve… “Excellence.” It was supposed to convince people that Toyota is an engineering powerhouse. And the assumption by most people was that it would be world-class at a cut rate price, just like the original LS was. For nearly $400k, The LFA doesn’t live up to the endless PR-derived hype. For $150k, this thing would be notorious. But for $400k, it’s not good enough. What it proves is that, given the opportunity and a blank slate, Toyota can’t deliver excellence. No matter the price.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    the LFA and the way it was sold reminds me of the 959. Needless to say there was no ebay back then but I seem to remember several 959s being for sale in those specialty magazines despite the fact that Porsche picked and chose the customers. Those supposed million dollar 959s were going for 200-300 thousand dollars even in the early 90′s. Not sure what the market is now….

    Anyway, the moral of the story for me is not the LFA but the lazy ass “journalism” in the world today.

  • avatar

    Still don’t believe it.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    > There is one sure-fire cure for this particular kind of OCD: Call and ask.

    I think this one sentence speaks volumes about Bertel’s journalism acumen. For us mere mortals, one does not just call Tokyo and expect a response… it takes weeks of the runaround in my experience.

  • avatar

    I noticed a lot of people who trolled the LFA as being an unnecessary car made for no good reason, wouldn’t say the same thing about the Bugatti Veyron. The Veyron is a technical exercise the same as the LFA, but people get all steamy over it because it was the fastest production car in the world. The LFA is the same type of deal to Toyota that the Veyron was to VW Group.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      Exactly..

      The only real difference was the Veyron was intended to push the envelope of drivetrain/engine technology, which still gets even lay-enthusiasts hot-and-bothered no matter how pointless it becomes in the real world while the LFA was pushing the envelope of ‘boring’ bits like structural component manufacture.

  • avatar
    Oren Weizman

    I think that the reason the LFA pisses off so many people is mainly because people are still angry at the fact Lexus managed to make a reliable Ferrari that hasn’t caught fire yet.

    Outrageous !

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      Sarcasm Or misinformation?
      http://japancarblog.com/2009/05/27/lexus-lf-a-nurburgring-fire/

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Production model or prototype?

        Prototype. Production began Dec 2010, as you can easily read above in the post. This other whacked out report? May 2009.

        Find a report on a production LFA going up on flames – Ferrari had both V8 458 Italia and V12 599 production cars self-immolating, and as a look underneath will tell you, their apprentices still can’t weld properly.

        If there’s one thing certain, it’s this. The LFA is probably the best made car ever. If you think some Brit with a handfile made a better RR or a Swabian with a Krupp milling machine made a better Mercedes made a better Mercedes, then show your documentation.

        What this 5 part series showed me quite clearly is that this LFA is made not with obsession, but a passion to make it as well as can be done. The LFA folks can hold their heads high.

        The car may not stir you as a vehicle, but let it be said, it’s manufactured in a way that other supercar manufacturers have not and may well not be able to equal.

        Many thanks for the series, Bertel.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Gordon

        “If there’s one thing certain, it’s this. The LFA is probably the best made car ever.”

        And what metric are you using to measure that? If by ‘best made’ you mean most fit for purpose, then a Ferrari, virtually any Ferrari bests it hands down.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I guess we can`t.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    The only reason this car has gotten scorn is because there are a vocal crew on the internet that will trash Toyota at any opportunity at all costs. Most of it is jealousy and hatred because Toyota is supposedly the reason for their brand’s downfall (usually American brands) and that there is some grand conspiracy in the media to prop Toyota up and that they need to expose “the truth”.


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