Russia and China are welcoming the brand with open arms. Japan, Toyota's home market, has been slower to accept Lexus as a legitimate luxury maker, however, with the company failing to meet 2005 and 2006 sales targets. It is hoped the newly redesigned LS sedan will help to turn things around, and the early numbers look good, Detroit News tells us.
The real challenge will be taking on the continent that invented and continues to dominate the world market for the luxury car: Europe. Lexus' 2006 sales in Europe were just over 10% of its sales of 322,000 cars in the U.S. Hoping to entice more European drivers to make the switch, Toyota is focusing on refined performance and styling. However, as they European-ize their lineup, they are being careful not to scare off their American base.
But the product is not the only thing that needs refinement if Lexus is to succeed in Europe. While Russians and Chinese appreciate the same sort of service and sales Americans do, Europeans prefer a more hands-off, low-pressure approach. Cars are seen as luxury items where public transport is so inexpensive and efficient, and buyers seek out cars they like, not cars that are pushed on them.
Lexus is hoping to gain an edge in Europe with its already expansive hybrid technology, a front on which the European luxury makers have been lagging. With 80% of Lexus RX customers in Western Europe opting for the hybrid power train, the auto maker is poised to strike while the hybrid-market iron is hot.