Lexus Europe Boss: Teutonic Trinity "Impossible" To Beat
While American premium brands Cadillac and Lincoln look to the Germans for inspiration — and their places on the podium — Lexus Europe chief Alain Uyttenhoven proclaimed that the Teutonic Trinity — BMW, Mercedes and Audi — were “impossible” to beat on a global scale, settling for fourth if possible.
According to Just-Auto, Uyttenhoven says the parent company is “out of its adolescence,” a turbulent time that included taking a one-two combo from the Great Recession and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Global sales prior to the occurrences topped out at 518,000 in 2007, with 2013 sales hitting a new peak of 523,000 units sold. That figure is just a quarter of what Audi aims to sell by 2020.
He adds that after establishing a reputation for high quality, customer service and environmental responsibility, Lexus will now focus on “emotion.” Thus, more high-performance vehicles with better driving dynamics, and likely more Predator grills. Diesels in Europe, on the other hand, will need more work:
The next big discussion will be about particulates. CO2 is not behind us, but we have to go to 99g/km by 2020. So, diesel has been growing because that CO2 average is easier to achieve with diesel. But the cost of purifying a diesel car is going to rise, so in the future, these engines are going to cost a lot more… For us, [petrol] hybrid is the answer.
History, soul, blah, blah, blah. Europeans prefer to buy European cars. Magazines are staffed by people who grew up in some mythological golden age when BMW actually made sport sedans and wasn't the aspirational car for every Honda Accord buyer - and who haven't moved past that. Lexus's biggest problem is that they launched with the LS400 in the USA which quickly established them as a bargain play to get people to buy. Then they became competitive with Mercedes and BMW and priced accordingly. And only then did they go to Europe. If they had gone to Europe with their original pricing advantage, they'd be in a much better position now in that market. This is basic - price does create perception, but the product has got to be there. Cadillac is trying to move the price lever, but the product is barely there.
"Lexus will now focus on emotion." How exactly will they do that? Let's see... Will it continue to be with bad design that ranges from conventional and unexceptional to juvenile and amateurish? With poor performance? (referencing the CT in the picture) With the obvious visual and tactile connection with Toyota? With a showroom of low-end volume sellers that make up the majority of Lexus sales? With an outdated flagship? With a tarted-up 4 Runner? With a tarted up Land Cruiser? With a vulgar looking small SUV that handles like a lowly Rav4 because it's based on a Rav 4. With a midsize 5 series competitor that is easily mistaken for a Camry? With a handmade car that no one wants, and they lose money on even though it costs over $300k? Give me a break. Lexuss' idea of emotion has been ugly and not believable. Actually, it's been downright frightening lately with their signature retarded grille and overwraught molded vinyl caps they stick on each of their vehicles. All this "we aren't going to compete against the Germans because we are going for emotion" is just a cop-out and a red herring for the real issue. They aren't going to compete against the Germans because it's really hard to do, and Lexus can't do it. Lexus is a brand that can't get out of its own way because it's associated with a goliath of a company, Toyota. Like most big Japanese companies that find a successful path, they never veer off that path even when the world changes around them. And as the German brands (and let's face it, Tesla) realize, leading change is more advantageous than following it. Opting out altogether is really pathetic.
My 2007 328xi bought CPO has had one issue, a leaking intake gasket, fixed under CPO warranty. That's it in the four+ years I have had it. Most trouble free car I have ever owned, including several Hondas. Our 2007 RX350 bought used as well (lower miles than the BMW) has had: two batteries replaced, both right side struts replaced, both rear wheel bearings replaced, three coils replaced, has a broken interior vent grille, and a few more minor things. But this misses the point. The German three aren't selling reliability. They sell feel, solidity, and even against Lexus they generally have an edge. My BMW vent grilles are not going to break, they seem industrial strength compared to those in the Lexus, which are Toyota parts bin level. Switch-gear and these minor details are where the other luxury brands fall behind.
With short term reliability past the dark days, the German 3 really just needed to work on the dealership experience to catch up with Lexus in that regard. The white glove treatment, goodwill repair budget, ammenities and huge loaner car fleets are a large part of the experience for luxury consumers from my understanding. Some of the german brands have recently done a great job of stepping outside of their culture on this aspect and going ahead with copying the Lexus model. Technology wise, I wonder if Lexus is planning to more or less ride out the IC engine altogether..following Tesla eventually.