In its short history, Lexus products have consistently been listed at the top of international quality and customer service ranking. But what are its expectations regarding the local market?
The days of Lexus owners being relegated to joining a queue of Tazzes and Corollas to have their vehicles seen to are limited. The revitalised operation has already identified 13 standalone dealership sites across the country. Seven more are expected to be operational by the end of 2008.
Until recently the brand has been operated as an extension of the global Toyota operation. However, separate design, and marketing and branding divisions have been established following the decision to position Lexus as an entity.
To date, Lexus has had its biggest presence in the US market. Its name, incidentally, is an acronym for Luxury Exports to the US following a Toyota executive's decision in 1983 to enter the luxury market traditionally dominated by German manufacturers. The first LS 400 was launched six years later in 1989.
And while it was launched in Europe in 1990 with consequent roll-out to other countries (including the surreptitious introduction to South Africa in 1993), the brand was never furnished with its own identity.
Local problems identified at the time of its local relaunch last year were the lack of distinction at Toyota dealerships, poor price positioning and a limited line-up.
Local executives have promised more comprehensive additions to the existing line-up with the possible inclusion of hybrid and turbodiesel options, while the flagship Fourways dealership shows a definite separation from the more serviceable Toyota customer.
Attention to detail in the development of the dealerships is meticulous and the environment is meant to cater to the specific needs of the executive customer.
The ultimate goal for the local subsidiary is placement within the top three luxury brands in South Africa, by upping volumes and completely repositioning the brand among consumers.
A combination of quality products (the brand has consistently been at the top of quality and servicing studies over several years), dedicated staffing and a strong focus on the customer and customer service, is what Lexus hopes will win over new buyers and retain existing owners.
For now, the sales figures are indicative. Prior to last year's relaunch, about 160 units were sold per annum. Now, Lexus averages monthly sales of more than 200 units, with a total of 3 006 units projected for 2007.