Big-SUV Lust

By some measures, Lexus remains the brand to beat. Three of its vehicles rank among the top 10 most reliable models in an annual Consumer Reports survey (the Toyota brand has three more), and J.D. Power named it the top brand for resale value. Lexus sold its 10 millionth vehicle this year, a testament to its success over other Japanese luxury brands like Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti and Honda Motor Co.’s Acura, whose cumulative worldwide sales total 2.6 million and 5.4 million, respectively.

Once mostly geared for the U.S., Lexus has increasingly become a global brand with rapid growth in China and Europe, where small crossovers dominate sales. Its most recent vehicle premieres took place in those two markets, including the UX compact crossover last year in Geneva and an electric-powered variant -- the brand’s first EV -- last month in Guangzhou. That has raised questions among some dealers and brand watchers about whether the U.S. now takes a back seat to other markets when it comes to investment priorities and vehicle development.

“It’s definitely been a slow time for the brand, and that’s what happens when you don’t have product to talk about,” said Kevin Watts, editor of the influential fan blog Lexus Enthusiast.

Lexus officials say the U.S. market has not been forgotten by executives in Toyota City. “Behind the curtain right now, what’s going on is that everything -- all the attention -- in Japan is to get Lexus back in the game with a tremendous lineup over the next few years,” said LaRochelle of the dealers’ council.

Those assurances from top Toyota officials came during an October meeting in Washington, where dealers said the vehicle highest on their wish list is an 18-foot long SUV akin to General Motors Co.’s GMC Yukon Denali XL. “That is one of our primary asks and one that they’re looking at,” LaRochelle said.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News. 

First « 1 2 » Next