Fleet News

Lexus sets out Europe growth plan

Lexus is targeting mainland Europe for the next stage of its expansion programme.

Until now the Toyota-owned luxury brand has focused on sales in the USA and the UK as it seeks to establish itself alongside BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz as a major luxury car producer.

But future growth will come from continental Europe, said David Brimson, Lexus (GB) general manager for marketing. Lexus has gone 'as far as it can' in its biggest market, the USA, and its UK business is being consolidated, he added.

Lexus has dramatically increased its range of fleet-friendly models in recent years, moving from a two-model range to a six-model line-up in a short space of time. It now offers fleets models in almost every sector of the premium market.

UK sales of Lexus models account for 49% of European sales, followed by Germany (14%), Italy, Switzerland and Holland (5% each), Belgium (4%) and other countries (18%).

Brimson said: 'Europe is now the world's largest premium car market so it is important for Lexus that we do well there.'

However, taking on the might of the established German luxury car brands and a reinvigorated Jaguar will not be easy.

But Brimson said: 'The next generation of product will enable the brand to significantly increase its European presence.'

It was the 1999 launch of the IS200 which launched Lexus into the rapidly growing premium upper medium segment of the European market alongside competitors like the BMW 3-series and Audi A4.

The range is also being strengthened with the introduction of the IS300 and IS300 SportCross models, the RX300 sport utility, new GS and LS ranges and the brand-topping SC430 coupe/convertible.

Brimson hinted that Lexus would try and win sales from other luxury brands that were losing their exclusivity by moving into volume markets.

'We want to stand for premium exclusivity, and take the territory left behind as others popularise their brands,' he said.

Simon Frith, general manager - operations, said: 'Customer service is crucial. We work off the US model where customer service is second to none with a high level of customer loyalty. We have to create customer awareness, because once we have gained customers we tend to keep them.'

The brand has won considerable support for its excellent performance in reliability surveys, such as that run by JD Power in the USA.

No diesels in range until 2006

Lexus will not feature diesel-engined models in its range until 2006. The Japanese luxury manufacturer has opted to develop its own range of diesel engines which will debut in future IS and RX ranges.

A new RX 4x4 model will appear in 2003 alongside minor changes to the LS430. In 2004 Lexus will launch a new IS range and GS 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre models.

They will be followed in 2005 by minor changes to the recently launched SC430. A new LS model will be launched in 2006 when a diesel engine will also enter service in the IS and RX ranges and will be added to the GS line-up in 2007.

Simon Frith, Lexus (GB) general manager — operations, admitted: 'If we could have a diesel-engined car tomorrow, we would. However, we expect to have our first diesel car in 2006.' (December 2001)

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