Lexus op­ti­mistic on con­tin­ued China ex­pan­sion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - MOTORING - LI FUSHENG and GONG ZHENGZHENG

Lexus, the lux­ury unit of Toy­ota Mo­tor, is con­fi­dent that it will reap steady sales growth in China this year, en­cour­aged by its strong per­for­mance in the first seven months of 2017.

Tet­suya Ezumi, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of Lexus China, said the au­tomaker sold 71,564 cars in the coun­try from Jan­uary to July, surg­ing 27 per­cent on a year ear­lier.

“Our monthly sales in China have ex­ceeded 10,000 units and we are main­tain­ing sound growth mo­men­tum. So we fore­cast our sales this year will sur­pass last year,” said Ezumi.

Lexus sold 109,000 cars last year in China, its sec­ond­biggest sin­gle mar­ket in the world af­ter the United States.

Ezumi at­trib­uted the ro­bust growth largely to Lexus’ up­graded line­ups. The brand now has 20 mod­els avail­able in China.

In the first seven months of the year, sales of the Lexus ES mid-sized sedan reached 31,947 ve­hi­cles in China, beat­ing the US as the model’s largest sin­gle mar­ket. Mean­while, Lexus sold 17,023 of its RX mid-sized SUV and 14,701 of its NX com­pact SUV. Ezumi said Lexus will launch a NX facelift and a CT facelift com­pact car dur­ing the Chengdu mo­tor show later this month.

The all-new LS limou­sine and LC sports car will also come to show­rooms in China at the end of this year, he said, adding he ex­pects the two mod­els to be “the block­busters” in their re­spec­tive seg­ments.

Ezumi said Lexus’ strate­gic shift from “a con­ven­tional lux­ury brand to an emo­tional one with amaz­ing life­style ex­pe­ri­ences” will also help it to boost sales in China where lux­ury car buy­ers are much younger than in other ma­jor mar­kets in the world.

Lexus car own­ers in China are on av­er­age 35 years old, at least 25 years younger than in the US and Ja­pan, ac­cord­ing to Ezumi.

He said the brand shift is ex­pected to woo more young cus­tomers who have in­creas­ingly di­ver­si­fied de­mands.

“In the past, own­ing a lux­ury car could help cus­tomers man­i­fest their value and sta­tus. How­ever, in the fu­ture they will fo­cus more on what life­style they could ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter pur­chas­ing a lux­ury car,” said Ezumi.

Chen Chen, Lexus’ mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion di­rec­tor in China, said the com­pany will launch more brand ex­pe­ri­ence cam­paigns in the fields of art, fash­ion and sports to fa­cil­i­tate its brand shift strat­egy. Ezumi pre­dicted that the en­tire lux­ury car mar­ket in China would rise to 3 mil­lion ve­hi­cles sold an­nu­ally soon. The num­ber stood at 2 mil­lion last year.

The mar­ket is now mainly dom­i­nated by three Ger­man mar­ques — Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.

An­a­lysts said that, con­sid­er­ing Lexus is not pro­duc­ing cars in China, its cur­rent per­for­mance is fairly de­cent.

Most lux­ury car­mak­ers have started pro­duc­tion in China, such as the three main Ger­man brands, Cadil­lac and Jaguar Land Rover, as well as Lexus’ smaller Ja­panese sib­lings In­finiti and Acura.

Ezumi said lo­cal pro­duc­tion is an im­por­tant topic that Lexus is con­tin­u­ing to ex­am­ine ac­cord­ing to changes in the mar­ket and other fac­tors in China.

“How­ever, lo­cal pro­duc­tion is not all of lo­cal­iza­tion. It should also in­clude lo­cal­iza­tion of brand­ing, mar­ket­ing and other as­pects. We at­tach more im­por­tance to brand lo­cal­iza­tion and look for­ward to form­ing an emo­tional bond with Chi­nese cus­tomers,” he said.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Se­nior ex­ec­u­tives of Lexus at­tend the com­pany’s brand cam­paign in Shang­hai.

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