Lexus Going Nowhere Fast in Japan

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
lexus going nowhere fast in japan

Not that the average American Lexus buyer could give a damn, but Toyota's luxury division has singularly failed to gain traction outside the U.S. market. Which is exactly the point: Americans are far less bothered by issues of provenance (i.e. or lack thereof) than any other developed automotive market. Business Week reports that the analysis applies to Lexus' home turf. "When Toyota (TM) introduced its Lexus brand in Japan three years ago, the company was hoping drivers like Masayoshi Haku would swoon over the luxury lineup. The 46-year-old doctor is a car lover with a $110,000 BMW 750 sedan and a $60,000 Porsche Boxster, so he should have been a prime customer for Lexus. But Haku hasn't taken the bait. Why? Lexus is too Japanese for his tastes… 'Foreign brands have more individuality.'" Sales reflect this non-import bias; Lexus sold just 34,800 cars in Japan last year. As Biz Week points out, Lexus did itself no favors with its initial lineup, featuring "the $52,000 GS sports sedan, the $68,000 SC convertible, and the entry-level IS sedan, starting at about $40,000. All three had previously been available in Japan under the Toyota nameplate— for about 20% less than the Lexus models." Oops. [thanks to stalightmica for the link]

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4 of 16 comments
  • Willbodine Willbodine on Mar 23, 2008

    Well 38,000 units in a country of 125 million isn't exactly diddly squat. Toyota/Lexus is in it for the long haul. To be continued...

  • GS650G GS650G on Mar 24, 2008

    I road in a 1995 Soarer back in 1996, a SC300 with japanese drive. Great car, made me want one stateside. They have strange names for cars there, like Bluebird for Nissan's flagship and ED for one of Toyota's Japan only brands. I can't see American men buying a car with an name like ED.

  • Marc Marc on Mar 24, 2008

    So this story is really making the rounds. First off, it is not a new story. Toyota lowered the projected sales for Lexus quite early on, realizing that they had a dearth of product and a slowing auto economy. The current projected sales are 40K a year, so Lexus actually came quite close to it. The article also fails to mention that Lexus sales are actually right in line with the Euro brands. BMW sells highest at about 45K, but Merc is around 30K and Audi trails at 15K. In fact Lexus outsold Merc in Jauary (app. 3000 to 2300), despite, as the article claims, its January sales being so low. So what is really going on here? Either a slow news day at BusinessWeek or an agenda???...

  • Argentla Argentla on Mar 24, 2008

    A number of years ago Lexus sued a bunch of gray-market importers who were buying JHM Toyotas with right-hand drive, adding Lexus badges (purchased over the parts counter) and selling them in the UK. The charge was that these importers were committing fraud! The irony is pronounced.