The Lexus IS Is Competing Again

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

In the United States, Lexus has sold in excess of 5000 copies of the IS twice in the last nine months, having not done so even once since August 2008.

Five times in the last nine months, Lexus has sold more than 4000 copies, having only sold more than 4000 ISs once in the previous 44 months.

U.S. Lexus IS volume has increased on a year-over-year basis in each of the last 14 months, although six of those year-over-year comparisons include prior-year results from the IS’s worst sales year (2012) since 2005.

In its segment, the IS trails only the premium-brand-leading BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Granted, the Audi A4, though relatively appealing even now, is as old as the hills. Also, while Infiniti’s Q50 trails the IS by 10,305 units, the Q50/G sedan combo is narrowly ahead of the Lexus.

Cadillac ATS volume has plunged 20% so far this year as total Cadillac passenger car volume has tumbled 15%. Volvo S60 sales are down 15% to 14,684 units, 18,743 sales back of the IS. The S60 trailed the IS by just 1672 units at this point one year ago.

The tide has clearly turned. In both 2011 and 2012, even Acura’s TSX was a more popular choice than the IS. Year-to-date IS sales in America are up 77%. The rapid growth rate has slowed as year-over-year comparisons now include results from both years, both 2014 and 2013, of the current, third-generation IS. August sales jumped 20% to 5312, more than the figure managed by the traditional second-ranked C-Class.

That C-Class, however, is now being replaced by a much more competitive, wildly more modern C. Will that car put the brakes on the IS’s ascent? It’s possible. One could argue that the brash IS with its massive spindle grille and controversial interior targets a different buyer. But we don’t determine which vehicles consumers will decide to cross-shop.

The IS has nevertheless regained the status of a major player in the category. Lexus is on pace for the IS’s first year since 2007 with more than 50,000 sales. Not surprisingly, the IS has once again become important to traditionally RX-dependant Lexus. Through the first eight months of 2013, the IS accounted for just 11% of Lexus’s U.S. volume; the RX and ES 66%.

The RX/ES portion has fallen to 58% in 2014, however, as the IS now generates 17% of Lexus volume. You’re not surprised to learn, therefore, that Lexus outsold BMW and Mercedes-Benz in both July and August.

One thing is certain, the IS is not close to challenging the top-selling BMW in terms of U.S. sales. No entry-level premium sports sedan is, nor are any about to. The 3-Series range is massive, from the 320i sedan which undercuts the base IS by a few thousand dollars, to hatchback versions of both the 3-Series and 4-Series (which BMW USA still includes in the 3er’s total), countless powertrain options, and even a wagon. Not that BMW necessarily needs such broad appeal for the 3-Series to top the sales charts. The margins of victory are typically fairly large.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

More by Timothy Cain

Join the conversation
2 of 106 comments
  • 30-mile fetch 30-mile fetch on Sep 20, 2014

    I wasted a Mazda salesman's time test driving a 3 sTouring on the way home from work today. The delightful 2.5 will get it to 60 in about 7 and a half seconds with a nice plump little midrange. I was quite impressed considering the class of car. Then I remembered this was just about identical acceleration to an IS250 and decided that although I respect the overall job Lexus has apparently done with this car, I could personally never buy a near-luxury sports sedan with Mazda3 acceleration.

  • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on Sep 20, 2014

    I just built one of these online; Toyota's configurator is either broken, or they are taking bundled packages to new levels with the F-sport package. Besides brakes, suspension, wheels, and other items that you would expect in a sport package, the F-sport package includes many items that a lot of people would either want to skip in a sport package, or order separately and skip the sporty stuff. For example: -heated seats -blind spot monitoring -navigation -upgraded sound system -backup camera Elsewhere on the site is information suggesting you can indeed get some of this equipment separately, rather than in a $7,400 bundle. I hope that's the case.

  • 285exp I have been assured that EVs don’t require maintenance, so this seems pointless.
  • Slavuta "The fuel-economy numbers are solid, especially the 32 mpg on the highway"My v6 Highlander did 31 over 10 hour highway trip
  • Aja8888 As I type this, my 4 months old Equinox's Onstar module that controls the phone is broken. Yep, 4 months (never worked right from day one). Replacement will be a REFURBISHED unit since no new ones can be obtained (from China?). I really don't miss the phone via Bluetooth. And I have a great Garmin that I have used for years for trips which has free lifetime maps and traffic.
  • Bd2 There's a reason why talented American execs have been leaving Stellantis in droves.Tavares seems intent in following "Le Cost Cutter" Ghosn into driving his company into the dirt, whilst "justifying" his ever expanding compensation.
  • Bd2 Too bad gm didn't make the C8 better looking to begin with...