Traditionally big on sales in America, Lexus are now re-launching the brand in Europe with the new GS saloon selling in the premium or luxury sector. Lexus say the re-launch programme, in addition to the new GS, will include the introduction of the RX400h hybrid in May and the new IS with their new clean diesel engine will follow at the end of this year. A hybrid version of the GS will follow in 2006 but there will be no diesel-powered model.
The new GS models go on sale in the UK from 15 April.
Not only are Lexus re-launching in the UK and Western Europe they will be launching the brand for the first time in Japan in August this year where 150 newly designed dealerships will all open on the same day throughout the country. Lexus sales in emerging Eastern European countries are also part of the sales growth programme.
World sales of Lexus models through 450 dealer centres in 2004 were 358,000 vehicles, an increase of 10 per cent. The US market, where Lexus has been the number one luxury car brand for the last five years, achieved 290,000 sales last year.
In Europe 2004 sales reached a modest record level of 25,000, an increase of 15 per cent. Stuart McCullough, Director Lexus Division Europe said this week, "By the end of the decade Lexus in Europe will be selling 65,000 units through 350 dedicated Lexus retailers which will be in place within the next three years. Currently we have 233 outlets".
He added, "We will never reach the 2,000 or so European dealer count of our German competitors. We believe selling quality, high technology premium products through a smaller dealer network who are totally focussed on offering the best customer satisfaction will give us a clear competitive edge over our competitors so enabling us to sell more vehicles. This year we expect to sell 29,000 Lexus vehicles in Europe, a further growth of 20 per cent and by the end of the decade European sales should teach 65,000 units. I expect the GS to achieve around 5,000 sales in Europe this year and over half will be conquest sales"
The UK will account for 50 per cent of the new GS European sales in the car’s first full year said Steve Settle, the Lexus GB Director but this would reduce to around 30 per cent as other Eastern European markets develop.
Settle continued, "We sold just over 10,000 Lexus vehicles in the UK last year and we expect to sell 12,0000 units this year. Our business plan is to grow this total to 20,000 annual sales by 2010"
Settle added, "A significant amount of this growth will come about because of the introduction of our new models which will attract increased interest from the business and fleet markets. The RX400h hybrid will offer significant benefit in kind tax savings and the introduction of the new IS with our first Lexus diesel engine option will drive our sales forward. Currently our fleet sales account for 25 to 30 per cent of our total registrations but by the end of 2006 we expect our sales to be split 50-50, fleet and retail".
He added, "The current UK level of 50 Lexus Centres will be slowly increased to 58 over the next few years and in most cases these new Centres will be operated by our existing business partners. Currently 60 per cent of the Lexus Centres in the UK are twinned with Toyota dealers".
"In the next few months we will be launching a revised Lexus used car programme which will keep supplies of our used cars going through the Lexus Centres. It is important to maintain or high product residual values as we grow the franchise through business and fleet sales" said Settle.
The new Lexus GS is the third generation luxury sports saloon and it is the first model to exhibit the new Lexus L-finesse design philosophy and tour de force driving, performance and safety technologies. The GS has a distinctive long wheelbase sleek silhouette side view and all four models have luxury items of specification. Four models make up the new range, the GS300, GS300 SE, GS300 SE-L and GS430.
All GS300 models use the all new Lexus 3.0-litre, V6, 245bhp direct injection petrol engine with dual variable valve timing. The GS430 uses a revised 4.3-litre, V8, 279bhp unit. All versions use a new electronically controlled, close-ratio six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift mode.
UK on the road prices range from £30,400 to £46,755.
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