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Lexus to spank problem child CT into shape

Shape up: The Lexus CT200h will be given a shake up to counter newer rivals next year.

Facelift to trigger repositioning of Lexus CT200h and reignite sales from next year

9 Oct 2013

LEXUS Australia has promised to give its slipping CT200h hatchback more ammunition to help regain sales traction in the luxury small-car market from next year.

Sales of the all-hybrid CT200h – the smallest entry from Toyota's luxury brand – have plummeted 41 per cent this year as it has come under assault from all sides in its tough market segment.

Newcomers such as the Volvo V40, latest Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class and CLA have bruised the Lexus entry that once excelled in that league after its launch in 2011.

Just a year ago, CT200h was selling around 150 units a month, but last month, that fell to 54 units.

But Lexus says a mid-model facelift and repositioning are coming next year to make the CT200h more competitive against the sharply priced and fresher rivals.

In the longer term, a broader spread of CT models is believed to be in the offing at the next full-model change about 2016, possibly with a sedan to join the range to help global sales, particularly in the United States and China.

By contrast, most other Lexus models are gaining sales or at least holding station in the most competitive luxury car market in memory.

Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley told GoAuto that sales of the all-new IS sedan are up 28 per cent since launch, and possibly would be higher except for shortages of hybrid IS300h stock.

He said most other models were doing well in their segments after receiving major model changes or facelifts in the past two years.

Mr Hanley conceded that the CT200h was an exception, but said Lexus had plans for the brand's entry level vehicle next year.

“There's a big opportunity for us (with CT200h) in the next cycle of the car,” he said.

Mr Hanley said CT200h had been priced and equipped competitively when it was launched two and a half years ago, but “the market has moved since then”.

“Clearly its position has to be looked at, given the opposition,” he said.

Pricing for the CT200h starts at $39,990 and rises to $57,990 (plus on-road costs).

Now, a base-level Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series can all be had for $35,600 (plus on-road costs).

Last month, the A-Class logged 365 sales, while the BMW and Audi small cars both topped 250.

Overall Lexus sales are up just 1.8 per cent this year, while Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicle sales are up more than 30 per cent, BMW's have risen 12.9 per cent and Audi's have gained 11 per cent.

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