Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Short History of...

This week, the Toyota owned, luxury Japanese manufacturer, Lexus.

Welcome to the first edition of what we hope to be a series of regular articles focusing in on the history of a specific manufacturer. Today we’re going to look at Japans largest automotive export, Lexus.

First introduced in the United States in 1989, Lexus is now sold globally and has become Japan’s largest selling make of premium marques. They even named the city in which the Toyota manufacturing plant has stood since opening after the brand, Koromo, is now known as Toyota, Aichi. I wonder if we can set about starting a petition to change the name of Coventry to ‘Jaguar’. I might even consider living there, but it’s doubtful.

Global expansion didn’t really take off for Lexus until the turn of the century, in 2000, Lexus introduced the IS line, a new series of entry-level sport sedans. In 2001, the marque debuted its first convertible, the SC 430, and the third generation LS 430. The GX 470 mid-size SUV debuted in 2002, followed by the second generation RX 330 in 2003. The following year, Lexus recorded its two-millionth U.S. vehicle sale.

 In 2004 Lexus was one of the pioneering forces behind electric technology and gave birth to the first luxury-branded production hybrid SUV, the RX 400h. The first new Lexus to use its new hybrid drive system, combining electric and gasoline motors to produce lower fuel consumption, increased power and less emissions.

By 2005, Lexus was a big enough boy to go it alone, and with dedicated engineering, design, manufacturing and training centres working exclusively for the division, Lexus completed an organizational separation its parent company, Toyota. The same year, Lexus launched in its home-market of Japan and expanded its global growth, selling in China and later, Russia.

In 2008, amidst the late-2000s recession and a weakened world car market, global sales fell 16% to 435,000, with declines in markets such as the U.S. and Europe where deliveries fell by 21% and 27.5%, respectively. In 2009, the marque launched the HS 250h, a dedicated hybrid sedan for North America and Japan, the RX 450h, the second generation hybrid SUV replacing the earlier RX 400h, and later that year debuted the US$375,000 production LFA exotic coupe. In late 2009, citing higher sales of hybrid models over their petrol counterparts, Lexus announced plans to become a hybrid-only marque in Europe. By the end of the decade, Lexus ranked as the fourth-largest premium car make in the world by volume, and was the number-one-selling premium car marque in the U.S. for ten consecutive years. Now that’s not bad going is it?

To me Lexus has always had a confused identity, I’ve always thought its looks didn’t blend in well to the European markets, looking always like an obvious import. I’m sure as we see the electric car market explode over the next year or so, Lexus will be one of the front-runners, and maybe for the next 10 years.


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