Lots to like about Lexus

Plenty of ex­cite­ment sur­rounds the new en­try-level Lexus, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige News -

ANEW Lexus starter car will be in Aus­tralia within 18 months. The front-wheel-drive com­pact will drop in be­low the ex­ist­ing IS sedan and run straight up against the BMW 1 Se­ries and Audi A3.

The tar­get start­ing price is less than $50,000 and it would quickly be­come the best­seller in the Lexus range in Aus­tralia.

The head of Lexus Aus­tralia, John Roca, says: ‘‘We’ll con­tinue to add prod­ucts. Next is the non­con­firmed en­try-level Lexus.

‘‘It would be a 1 Se­ries com­peti­tor, or an A3. It’s not con­firmed yet, but we’re think­ing 2011.’’

Over­seas re­ports point to a CT badge on the car and pro­duc­tion early in 2011, de­spite ear­lier ru­mours of a BS or CS name­plate, and it’s ex­pected to be a pre­mium hatch­back in the C-size seg­ment.

Work on the C-Pre­mium Lexus has been un­der­way for more than three years. It should be un­veiled at the Tokyo Mo­tor Show in Oc­to­ber.

Lexus has reg­is­tered three trade­marks for the car in the US — the CT 200h, CT 300h and CT 400h — and is al­ready point­ing to a hy­brid pow­er­train.

Though the CT is still well in the fu­ture, Lexus is push­ing hard to re­cover lost ground in Aus­tralia be­fore the end of the year.

‘‘Yes, our re­sults were down 32 per cent on last year by June. We ex­pected it. The lux­ury mar­ket is down 33 per cent, so we’re on line with that,’’ Roca says. ‘‘But we ex­pect the sec­ond half of the year to be stronger than the first.’’

That strength will come from the push with the RX SUVs and the IS con­vert­ible, which are Lexus heart­land.

Still, Roca is the first to ad­mit his brand doesn’t have the depth to com­pete with Benz, BMW and Audi.

‘‘We’re are play­ing rugby 15s with six play­ers. Why aren’t the other guys do­ing bet­ter with 15 play­ers in all 15 seg­ments?’’ he says.

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LEXUS has al­ways taken a more-for-less ap­proach to the lux­ury-car busi­ness. It’s pric­ing its cars be­low its ri­vals and, with the launch of the IS250 C con­vert­ible, can­not re­sist a swipe.

Lexus boss John Roca says: ‘‘I like to think our com­pe­ti­tion is just over­priced.’’

But there’s more to the price pol­icy than the IS-C. And its op­po­si­tion from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.

‘‘I wouldn’t say it’s all of them,’’ Roca says of his ri­vals.

‘‘But, com­par­ing ap­ples with ap­ples, in the seg­ments where we com­pete we’re bet­ter value. And in this mar­ket con­sumers are pretty savvy.’’

Com­ing soon: the new en­try-level Lexus, ex­pected in 2011, will sit in be­low the IS250 (above).

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