2012 Lexus LFA: A Lost Decade, A Sales Dud? Page 2

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Slow sales?
Only 90 LFAs have been built to date for worldwide sales. Of those, 22 have been delivered to the U.S. Lexus says it doesn't know precisely how many have been delivered world wide, as some may still be in transit. Even allowing that all built are spoken for, there's still another 410 units to go in its limited run.

The LFA has been in production since last December. At the current rate, it will take another 27-28 months for the remaining 410 cars to be built. That will extend its run into the end of 2013--not at all unheard of for any car, especially a hyper-limited run of very expensive cars. The nearly $2 million Bugatti Veyron, for example, has been in production since 2003 for a run of just 300 cars, including the many special editions. Even so, the rate of LFA production now sits at about 15 cars per month, short of Lexus' stated production goal of 20 per month. With each car intended to be built to order, to the customer's precise specifications, operating below theoretical capacity indicates a shortfall in demand. [Update: Lexus wrote us to point out that LFA production, like most other industries in Japan, was disrupted for some time due to the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country. It's a fair point and does explain some of the shortfall in output and sales, though perhaps not all. Time will tell about the remainder.]

There were reports last year--quickly reversed by Lexus--that the LFA had sold out, despite its hefty $375,000 price tag and, in the U.S., restrictive leasing conditions. Even though Lexus corrected the erroneous sold-out status, it indicated, vaguely, that only a few slots were remaining. So how, then, could we formulate our question in such cold terms?

It's simple, really: compared to other cars of its performance caliber and status, the LFA is barely selling at all. Lamborghini's recently-released Aventador, for instance, has already sold the entirety of its first-year allotment of cars through pre-order--before it was even available for testing. Likewise, the Ferrari FF's full year's run of 800 cars sold out in pre-order as well. The Aventador sells for about $370,000, while the FF sells in the neighborhood of $360,000, putting both on equal footing with the LFA in price.

Image is everything
Does it come down to the much-discussed brand cachet issue? Everyone knows the status and impact the Ferrari and Lamborghini marques carry, thanks in part to their perennial stratospheric market positions. Lexus, on the other hand, was introduced in America--a decidedly gauche nation, to many outside eyes--as an affordable luxury brand that nonetheless delivered the amenities of the good life. Can that same brand pull off a halo supercar so far removed from its brethren? Though unsubstantiated by data, that is a popular sentiment among the media and supercar owners alike. Other explanations, such as relative performance (Ferrari and Lamborghini both make cars that will run with the LFA for about half the price) weigh in as well.

Whatever the cause, the slow sales prompt the question: was the LFA worth it to Lexus? Considering the massive investment of time and R&D budget in the project, plus the projected loss of money on every car sold, the failure of the car to resonate with its ostensible intended market may be the strongest indicator that it wasn't.

Lexus has delivered a handful of justifications for the LFA project over the years: it washes the lower-run Lexus performance cars in a sheen of the truly exotic; it serves as a proving ground for next-generation construction and technology; it raises the brand's perception as a whole among the upper echelon of the automotive elite. Well and good, assuming any of these prove true (and, as noted above, we have reason to believe they haven't so far). But how does the return compare to the investment?

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Comments (17)
  1. as a car collector i would buy this car,but as a car enthuse i will never buy it. i see it as a waste of money when i could buy a Lamborghini Aventador or Ferrari 599 GTO that actually looks good with around the same price and may outperform the LFA.

  2. Paris Hilton owning 1 was probably the final nail in the coffin. Plus, Lexus is a great company but it was quite a jump from the LS to this ... not only in terms of price but also convincing people Toyota could build sports cars. They were better off doing something on the level of the Acura NSX 1st ...

  3. This article will please the legions of Lexus and LFA haters.
    At least they built the damn thing when Acura canned the NSX and Infiniti only teased with the Essence and BMW doesn't even compete. You forget to really touch what was learned with the car and how this will trickle down to other cars. It did with the 2011 IS F as the LFA team tuned it and the car is 8 seconds faster than the 2008 model.
    Lets be honest. no Japanese brand had a 100k car until the LS 600h L and now here is Lexus trying to sell one for 375k in a market that is slow? Its amazing they continued to go ahead with the project. I haven't seen another other supercar showcased and put into the hands of people as Lexus has done, that should be commended.

  4. IMO, its still a over glorified Celica and it does not look anything like a supercar, at all! A mass production Celica, yes, an expensive sportscar, no, seriously! Its also ugly, like a cross-breed of an A8, Ferrari 458 and a Celica that gone wrong. I rather get me a Porsche Cayman and spend the remaining money upgrading from Ruf and probably still have enough cash leftover and eat up this LFA on the road anytime. I don't hate Toyota, its my fave Japanese makes but not this car.

  5. I too thought the LFA was bland until I recently moved to Germany. Here, BMWs and Mercs are a dime a dozen. The first time I saw a IS F over here, I though whoa, now that really stands out. The same with most other Lexus models over here.
    Back in the U.S., an IS F wouldn't get a second glance from me.
    Lexus already has strong sales in the U.S. I think the purpose of the car is really to get Europe's attention. People with tons of money want to be different, want to stand out. I now finally understand why Lexus made this car so expensive. I was once a hater but now am converted. I would rather own this than a 599 or any Aston Martin if I was looking to buy a mega expensive GT.

  6. Wow, speculation much, Mr. Ireson? You take all these gut feelings about the actual cost of the project and present them as fact. The FACT is that you simply don't know the development cost, manufacturing cost, or future savings. You don't know how costs will be amortized in the future. Lexus said they don't make money on the car. Selling only 500 cars at $375,000 pretty much makes losing money a certainty. The development cost of the Camry probably crests the $187M that the LFA will bring in. Basically, a new project has no chance of making money at that quantity and cost when looked at by itself. What they learned, though, may save them millions in R&D in the future. Only those at TMC can really say if the project was worth it.

  7. QB--that's a fair point, and certainly the weakest part of my argument. Lexus hasn't ever discussed or even vaguely referred to the cost of development for the LFA as far as I can tell in my research. I made an educated guess based on similar cases and the duration of the project, however, and I think it's reasonable.
    I also acknowledge several times that the LFA, even if not a world-beater, is a very impressive car. I don't hate it by any means.

  8. Exactly my thoughts Silent Bob.
    The Author is rather myopic in his analysis of the LFA program focusing primarily on the monetary cost\benefit with indifference to the rest. This is a good article to read and understand the other side of the argument and is irrelevant to the value of the LFA program, either to Lexus or its customers.
    It does however help expose fanbois such as Countach empowered by internet access and a few throw away comparisons.

  9. It's no wonder Nelson is the editor of a 3rd rate automotive site with all the assumptions he makes.

  10. Yeah, it's a real shame that car companies don't only green light cars that make tons of money and compete on meaningless specification figures. Article author's metric for "success" of a car is everything that is wrong with the automotive industry today.

  11. Mr. Ireson, your article fails on so many levels I don't have enough room to type. You fail to mention that ALL 165 cars in Japan are sold out(I should know I live here and still wait for a call to say one is available).You put down Lexus for not matching monthly production targets ,you do realize there was a 9.0M earthquake here and a lot of Toyota's facilities had to stop production? The new Prius has a one year wait here, but it was expected to start shipping July/August. Mr QB commented on the cost factor so I won't go over that again. How about you pull your head from where the sun don't shine and do some actually research instead speaking out where the sun don't shine?

  12. Confusing article, I actually have a red LFA on order in NY, I know myself of about 30 people or companies in the northeast with one on order we're using it for our racing school, Lexus made us wait a while to get things done and we only got ours because someone moved out of their spot for a yellow one.
    How the hell can it be a sales dud ?

  13. http://www.clublexus.com/forums/lfa-model/572984-in-response-to-the-sky-is-falling-articles-on-the-lexus-lfa.html#post6422246

  14. Great article for those tasting the sour grapes like myself. Lambo and Ferrari produce ltd runs of "special" cars every five years +/-. But how special are they when Jameslist is jammed with Enzos and Veyrons?
    There is a lot more to the LFA than the materials in in or the performance figures. Almost all the real car reviewers praised its handling and track manners. The TG power lap times speaks the undeniable truth.
    There are plenty of alternatives, GTR, Corvette, ferrari, lamborghini, koeniggsegg, Pagani etc at all price ranges. None will be as exclusive or refined and built by the best automaker in the world.
    True car enthusiasts will want to collect the LFA. Sunday drivers prefer the flashy brands like Ferrari.

  15. I read the first page of this article and knew exactly where it was going, but I keep an open heart and mind anyways. It's funny how all these supposed "facts" have no direct links. Care to weigh in the positives?...like what the LFA could potentially do for Lexus should it be successful? Now you mentioned car enthusiasts like those that buy Ferraris would never opt for an LFA...did you run a survey by these individuals? and if so, where are the results? I can go on and on, but if anyone writes "professionally," he/she ought to throw in both sides. Remember, your readers are just as smart and competent as you are and we appreciate honest reviews/evaluations from our writers.

  16. I think the article sheds a little light on the original issue with the LFA. The price is way to high considering its from a company that makes luxury cars and has no experience in this field. I own a high end Lexus sedan ( and have owned others) so I am not just out to bash Lexus. The LFA has not raised the benchmark in any way and is slower than most of its competitors. I know its exclusive and well built but so is a Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren Mp4-12C, and the Lamborghini Aventador. We spend our money where we want. If it was my money I would spend it elsewhere

  17. I've never owned a Lexus, but I've been a fan of their work for quite some time, of their philosophy and take on cars. Seriously Toyota and Lexus are the only two companies that would do anything not just for profit. When they started the Prius no one really gave a damn about hybrids. Now every new car is a Hybrid. I don't even know why I bother replying to such a useless article since you obviously know nothing about cars. Have you even driven an LF-A to be able to criticize it!? I just love how you assume all this stuff and don't even have the guts to defend when people try to get actual facts from you. Good job Mr. "Reporter", keep it up, maybe one day you'll manage to write for your local high school newspaper.

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