LEXUS Australia is on the verge of deciding whether to plunge headfirst into motorsport or to withdraw from racing entirely.
The company sees motorsport as a possible platform to promote performance cars to rival those from German makers.
The brand provides the RC F pace and safety cars for the V8 Supercars series. Company boss Sean Hanley commissioned a study last year into what benefits Lexus could extract from entering a car in the championship.
Hanley says there are three options: V8 Supercars, GT3 racing — or walking away.
He sees V8 Supercars as a way to target people stepping up from Ford and Holden performance cars to a luxury badge.
But overseas, Lexus is building a GT3 racer for global competition and encouraging its regional arms to establish a team. The US has committed to running at least one car and there are two entered for the European championship.
Hanley has yet to decide. “If I’m targeting that ‘step-up’ buyer, someone moving from mainstream into luxury, (V8 Supercars) works big time,” he said.
But the GT3 project opens another avenue. “The other thing that evolved in our own organisation was the development, and it is still in development, of a GT3 racing team, which wasn’t anywhere on the agenda ... 12 months ago.”
Hanley says the lower cost of GT3 racing and pitting the brand against other prestige marques are equally attractive.
He cites the growing popularity of the series locally, headlined by the Bathurst 12-Hour race, as a potential trigger to join the factory-backed global GT3 campaign.
“The third option is to walk away from motorsport altogether,” he says. “We’re still evaluating which makes the most sense in terms of cost against extending the brand’s reach.
“We expect to have a decision in the next three to four weeks.”
Hanley says the rollout of high-performance F models such as the $133,110 RC F coupe and coming GS F sedan will bring driving enthusiasts to the brand in much the same way Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi have benefited from their respective performance arms in AMG, M and RS.
“It’s no secret Australians like fast cars and it’s no secret it is an area Lexus needs to be involved in,” Hanley says.
“The F Sport models across the range (excluding the LX) are also hugely important to us. They deliver a sharper look and drive that brings us to the attention of buyers who may not have considered a Lexus previously.”
Hanley won’t comment on the imminent arrival of a production version of the 2+2-seater LF-LC concept car despite the abundance of images showing a camouflaged car undergoing testing.
“There’s no plan to launch that anytime soon … what we can say about that concept car is Lexus’s ability to bring concept to reality is pretty good now,” he notes.
Handley says a new flagship would give Lexus a muchneeded halo car following the departure of the LFA.
“The LF-LC concept is a car we’d love to get,” he says.
A convertible version would be even more desirable, on the basis Australians buy sporty drop-tops. “It’s got to be a performance convertible,” he says. “It’s got to be a fast car.”
The class-winning Lexus RC F GT3 at the Nurburgring round of the VLN endurance series