Lots to like about Lexus
Plenty of excitement surrounds the new entry-level Lexus, writes PAUL GOVER
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.
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).