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Lexus dealers ‘bullish’ about future plans

Building the future: Lexus of Southport is putting the final touches to its new, larger Gold Coast facility while a new $8 million outlet is set to open its doors in Adelaide on Wednesday.

‘Cool future coming’ for Lexus with new products and dealer expansion on the horizon

Lexus logo12 Nov 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

LEXUS may not achieve a sales record in Australia this year, but a plan for sustained and steady growth, continuation of its design-led, driver-focused approach and a promising pipeline of product reveals planned for the next 12 months has dealers keen to invest in network expansion.

First in the hit parade of new models for the Japanese luxury brand – which now has Infiniti to contend with, along with its well-established European rivals – will be the all-important redesigned volume-selling IS sedan, which Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb told GoAuto would arrive “inside 12 months”.

Following products will include a coupe based on the LF-CC concept shown at the Paris motor show in September and most likely a compact SUV to fill the yawning gap in the Lexus range below its popular RX.

“It is genuinely exciting to be part of the brand at the moment,” said Mr Cramb.

“While I can’t go into any detail, the product launch plan for the next few years is very exciting for us.

“We are just that one year closer to this product front that is coming through and I think through the LF-LC (sub-LFA sportscar) and LF-CC (IS-series coupe) concepts – and even the changes to the LS – it gives you a sign of where we are heading.

“I have seen and driven some of these cars and it is a cool future coming.”

 center imageFrom top: Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb Lexus LF-CC concept LF-LC concept.

Lexus International general manager Andrew Kirby, who was in Melbourne last week for a dealer conference to outline the company’s plans, told GoAuto that Australian dealers were “bullish” and willing to invest in facility refurbishment and expansion.

To illustrate the level of dealer confidence, Mr Cramb cited the example of a new flagship dealership set to open in Adelaide on Wednesday.

“They have spent $8 million on that facility,” he said. “That is a serious investment in Lexus.”

Mr Cramb said Lexus will expand beyond its current 24 outlets, with another four sites planned to open within the next couple of years.

Significant expansion is already taking place at existing outlets on the Gold Coast and in Melbourne.

Mr Cramb described the soon-to-open dealership in the Gold Coast suburb of Southport as “probably three times the size of the old facility”, while a block of land acquired by Lexus of Blackburn for expansion purposes is said to be “massive”.

“(Lexus of Blackburn) is trying to get through council (planning permits) to build a landmark facility there and that will make a statement in Melbourne within 12-18 months,” he said.

Coming off a low base due to the effects of last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami that cost the company about 1500 units, Lexus Australia sales have increased 9.2 per cent to the end of October to 5561 new registrations.

The ageing IS sedan has been averaging about 190 sales per month this year, down 27 per cent compared with a long-term monthly average of 261.

“We were heading well last year, but this is the last year of IS, (which) is starting to perform like an eight-year-old car, unfortunately,” he said.

“It has been a little difficult for us, but (the sales figure) is still going to be up we are up 10 per cent in the last year, so it is going very well.”

Lexus sources have indicated to GoAuto they expect the new IS to arrive here in the third or fourth quarter of next year, which means the local operation will have to endure another year of slowing IS sales.

But Mr Cramb remains confident.

“I am always looking to sell more, but in the end we have got to be happy what we have achieved so far this year and I think next year will be another growth year for us, and then the year after again,” he said.

Mr Cramb reiterated his plan of steady, sustainable growth and promised Lexus “will not chase growth if it is not there” by resorting to tactics like pre-registering vehicles.

He saw “significant upside” in smaller-displacement offerings such as the four-cylinder RX270 and entry-level GS250 sedan, but admitted the RX270 had not yet “hit its straps” as early adopters of the facelifted RX have favoured the top-spec hybrid variants.

Another potential volume booster for Lexus would be a return of the front-drive ES sedan, positioned in other markets between the IS and GS.

While Mr Cramb was unable to confirm the ES for Australia, he said he is “absolutely looking at it”, and is encouraged by its take-up since its overseas launch as it “has just gone ballistic”.

“I think they sold 10,000 in the first month it’s ridiculous,” he said.

“It is really well received, there is definitely a market for a car like that in Australia, so we’d love to be able to get it and I am looking forward to hopefully one day securing it.”

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