Make it, they’ll buy

Lexus’s boss thinks it lacks a loy­alty win­ner at the lower end, writesMARKHINCHLIFFE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

JA­PANESE lux­ury car­maker Lexus needs an en­try-level car to com­bat BMW’s 1 Se­ries.

Lexus Aus­tralia boss John Roca says it is one of only two ob­vi­ous gaps in its ad­mit­tedly small prod­uct range.

He says the other big gap is be­tween the IS and GS af­ter the de­par­ture of the ES.

‘‘A lot of young peo­ple know more about Lexus than older peo­ple do, so we need a car to get them started in the brand,’’ Roca says.

‘‘A $49,000 car with a Lexus badge is what they re­ally want. I have been telling head of­fice that for­ever, and they are now start­ing to lis­ten.

‘‘Al­ready there is talk about a baby Lexus within the next three years, but they are very very vague about it.

‘‘At this stage they won’t even con­firm if the project ex­ists. If it does, it’s ei­ther an en­try-level passenger car or an SUV.’’

Roca says an ES-sized midrange car would be good but his pri­or­ity would be an en­try car to at­tract more peo­ple to the brand.

‘‘BMW gets peo­ple into the brand with the 1 Se­ries and they de­velop a loy­alty,’’ he says.

‘‘Once they have a loy­alty to a brand it’s hard to get them out of it.’’

Roca says an en­try-level Lexus would not af­fect Toy­ota.

‘‘They have two very dif­fer­ent buy­ers,’’ he says.

Roca says Lexus was launched in Aus­tralia in 1990 when the eco­nomic cli­mate was un­suit­able.

‘‘ We launched with the LS400 at $117,000 in the mid­dle of a re­ces­sion when hous­ing in­ter­est rates were 17 per cent and car fi­nance was about 24 per cent,’’ he says.

‘‘It was like launch­ing the Mercedes brand with only the S class.

‘‘In 1991 we added the ES300 and that was it for about seven years. To­day we have 8.8 per cent of the lux­ury mar­ket with only a hand­ful of mod­els.’’

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