Lexus has been the number one brand in luxury in the US for the last six years now, but buyers in its homeland, Japan, still seek the European labels when it comes to luxury. BMW and Mercedes Benz are still the luxury cars of choice in Japan, with DaimlerChrysler selling more than 58,000 cars in Japan last year and BMW moving 38,400 in the first 10 months of 2006.

Lexus was only introduced into the Japanese market in September last year, so its within reason that the luxury brand isn’t that popular yet. The L.A. Times reports that Toyota execs initially estimated that the company would sell 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles in Japan for its first year, but in fact have sold just half that over 14 months.

Industry analyst Christopher Richter acknowledged that the conservative attitude towards Lexus and the connection with Toyota doesn’t work in Japan, commenting that “people want something that says, Hey, I spent stupid money on a car.”