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Lexus Australia to crack 10,000 sales this year

User experience: The newly introduced Lexus UX small SUV (left) will have to settle for second place as the brand’s best-seller is still expected to be the NX mid-size crossover (below).

UX small crossover to boost Lexus sales to record-setting number in 2019

Lexus logo29 Jan 2019

LEXUS Australia is expecting its year-end sales haul to top 10,000 units for the first time ever in 2019 on the back of the introduction of its all-new UX small crossover, continued strength of SUV sales and a renewed focus on its passenger car line-up.
 
In an interview with GoAuto, Lexus Australia chief executive Scott Thompson said the UX, as the brand’s smallest and most affordable SUV model, will add about 2500 incremental sales this year.
 
The Japanese company’s 8819-unit tally last year – which was lineball (+0.2%) with 2017 – would indicate a circa-11,000 sales result in 2019.
 
However, Mr Thompson was conservative with his estimate as confidence wanes in the overall new-vehicle market that fell 3.0 per cent, to 1.153 million units, last year.
 
“I’m saying 10,000 sales,” he said. “I’m being a tad conservative because the market itself is fairly interesting and tumultuous right now.
 
“Our record previously was just over 9000, so it would deliver a record year for us, so I’m quietly confident.
 
“We had a good year last year, we had a strong performance. We spent the year looking at our key strategic opportunities and focusing on our own plan.”
 
While a five-digit sales figure will not be enough to challenge luxury brand leaders such as Mercedes-Benz Cars (32,201, -13.1%), BMW (23,055, -2.4%) and Audi (19,416, -11.8%), it will be the third consecutive year of growth for Lexus in a market that many premium brands are finding tough.
 
As a sign of the times, Lexus’ SUVs, consisting of the NX mid-size crossover, RX large SUV and LX upper-large off-roader, all increased their market share last year, while the LS limousine also performed well on the back of a new generation that arrived in April.
 
The NX was the luxury brand’s best seller in 2018 on 3697 sales (+9.1%), followed by the RX with 2051 units (+10.4%), the latter benefiting from the introduction of a seven-seat version and the Crafted special edition early in the year.
 
The Toyota LandCruiser-related Lexus LX also found 404 new homes in 2018, a 24.7 per cent increase over 2017, as a result of a new diesel-powered version and a new flagship variant reaching the market.
 
In total, the Lexus SUV line-up – with the inclusion of the 175 sales of the UX that began entering showrooms in November – amassed 6327 sales, which was a sizeable 71.74 per cent of the luxury brand’s overall sales.
 
While Mr Thompson admitted last year’s focus was centred around its high-riding models, he said there will be more activity around its passenger car and sportscar offerings in 2019.
 
“We’ve really had a year focusing internally on our brand, and growing the strength of our brand, and supporting our dealer network, and that was sort of our core focus knowing we had UX coming at the end of the year and trying to capitalise on that,” he said.
 
“I think a lot of the activity around last year was in those (SUV) areas … we launched two brand-new (SUV) variants … we had a lot of special editions around our SUVs, I suppose we did look at the market and look at the opportunities and focus our attention there, but that’s not to say that this year we won’t be looking at our passenger cars and how we can enhance that offering as well.”
 
Mr Thompson would not be drawn on specific activities, but revealed that the RC coupe – which accumulated 334 sales (-9.7%) last year – would be a focus as the first example of the RC F Track Edition revealed at the Detroit motor show earlier this month had already landed Down Under.
 
While the UX is billed as a gateway to the Lexus brand, the CT200h hybrid hatchback – down 26.1 per cent to 607 sales last year – will continue alongside with a lower price point and repositioned marketing, according to Mr Thompson.
 
“We had a long conversation about this (CT200h) towards the end of last year and we decided a sales strategy for CT, and we positioned the car at a new price point now in the retail campaign, and it really is reacting quite positively,” he said.
 
“It’s a different buyer, it’s definitely an older buyer, and we actually think there are two separate markets there for it (CT and UX), so we’re going to continue on with the retail strategy of price pointing the car underneath the UX.
 
“It’s the entry-level to self-charging Lexus hybrids, and we’ve changed our marketing message around that car – it’s a bit simpler in terms of the message – and it seems to be relating to consumers now.
 
“It’s still got a place for us.”
 
Meanwhile, the IS and GS sedan hit 1089 (-28.5%) and 83 (-47.5%) sales last year, with the in-between-sized ES that launched in new-generation form in September finding 198 (-23.8%) new homes.
 
Mr Thompson said ES sales will likely gain more traction this year as its unique sizing and hybrid powertrain are strong selling points, while he also indicated a new powertrain option could be added to the sedan nameplate later this year.
 
He said: “We’ve got IS buyers moving up into it, GS buyers moving across into it, old ES buyers are basically like, ‘We’ll get back into the car.’
 
“At the moment we’ve got restricted volume, so we’re getting everything that we can, and probably demand is a little bit higher than what we’re currently bringing in to the market.
 
“I’m currently negotiating with my parents, but it’s been a success – the higher-grade versions are outselling the base grade.
 
“We’ve got some future plans later this year to expand the offerings as well.”
 
Finally, the flagship LC sportscar amassed 90 sales (-2.2%), while the mechanically related LS limo hit 91 units, up from the just three sales the prior year.
 
Though Mr Thompson did not confirm whether the recently revealed LC Convertible concept would make it to production, he said any news surrounding the halo model boosts interest.

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