Toyota Motor Corporation’s Lexus luxury brand is hoping to turn the tide of slipping sales with the launch of nine all-new and updated models this year. The automaker is also considering adding a seven-seat “people mover” as well as additional variants of its entry-level CT. A new sports coupe based on the LF-LC hybrid concept model is also in the works. The LF-LC hybrid concept vehicle was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show which runs through Sunday at the COBO Center in Detroit.
Lexus is also considering phasing out its entry-level HS Hybrid sedan due to sluggish sales. In 2011, HS Hybrid sales plummeted by 73 percent to only 2,864 units.
According to Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. president Jim Lentz, the HS Hybrid “doesn’t necessarily fit the long-term needs of the brand in the U.S.”
According to Lexus general manager Mark Templin, the company’s goal is to boost its U.S. sales by 21 percent, from 198,552 units in 2011 to 240,000 units in 2012. The addition of sportier new and refreshed models is a key component of the company’s strategy to recapture market share that has been lost in recent years.
Last year, BMW surpassed Lexus to become the best-selling premium auto brand in the U.S,. and Mercedes barely edged out Lexus to take the No. 2 position.
Speaking with media at the North American International Auto Show, Templin said, “”We will grow more than any other luxury brand this year,” and added, “Our base plan is 240,000. But we think we can exceed that by a pretty good margin.”
Among the new product launches planned for 2012 are the redesigns of the GS 350 and GS 450h sedans, both of which are scheduled to arrive in dealer showrooms next month. Refreshed versions of the ES 350, LS 460, 600h and IS 250 and 350, and LX SUV are also scheduled to launch this year. New variants of the CT 200h, including a sporty coupe, are also being considered.
Templin said he would also like to see a replacement for the SC 430 which was discontinued in 2010.
Lentz also sees Lexus moving away from body-on-frame construction for its SUVs, including the LX and GX. “By 2025,” he said, “I think one can assume that most of the frame-based vehicles will be gone.”
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