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Lexus mid-size surprise

Nose job: From the rear it is easy to spot the humble Camry origins of the current Lexus ES.

Lexus wants to bring back the ES sedan to plug its range

1 Nov 2010

THE mid-sized ES sedan could soon return to Australia and fill a gaping hole in the local Lexus range.

Lexus is finalising plans for the next-generation ES, which is based on the Toyota Camry and was sold in Australia from 1992 through to 2005.

The current model ES was not made available in right-hand drive, but Lexus Australia is pushing hard for the new model, which is due in the next 18 months.

Lexus Australia views the ES as integral to its growth aspirations and would fill a huge hole in the range between the small IS sedans and the large GS ‘touring sedan’.

31 center imageThe company’s Australian chief executive Tony Cramb confirmed interest in the next ES but said nothing has been finalised.

“There is a big gap between the IS and GS and also there is the fact that people don’t necessarily want a touring sedan,” said Mr Cramb.

“Frankly, I’d take any (new model) that was offered to us, but some are more suitable to us than others.

“At the moment, we’re just talking.”

Having recently produced the sporty IS350 in right-hand drive after holding out for several years, there is a good chance Lexus will do the same with the ES.

Although the British market remains crucial in making the RHD business case work, Mr Cramb said Australia was growing in stature within the Lexus world.

“Increasingly, Australia is seen as a crucial market for Lexus,” he said.

“Lexus Australia’s position means that the doors are now open on discussing a variety of Lexus product that were previously off-limits or unavailable from other markets.”

Previous-generation ES models looked very similar to the Camry they were based on, but Lexus is now trying to create more of a contrast between Toyota-based Lexus products and Mr Cramb insisted the next-generation ES would look “much different” to a Camry.

Lexus Australia is also looking at “a couple of target models”, Mr Cramb told GoAuto.

This includes an SUV that is currently under development, not the GX model sold in the US, which is heavily based on the Prado.

The next important arrival for Lexus Australia is the new CT200h hybrid, a youthful hatch aimed squarely at younger buyers. It will take the brand below the $50,000 mark when it arrives here early next year as the first hatch to wear a Lexus badge.

Lexus still languishes well behind other premium players in Australia, with sales of 4502 to the end of September compared to Audi with 10,382, BMW with 13,552 and Mercedes-Benz with 16,553.

Mr Cramb is keen to get as much new product as possible and believes Lexus will be able to eventually overhaul the other premium brands.

“Our aspiration is to one day lead the luxury car market, but one day is a long way off,” he said. “It won’t happen when I’m running things I wish it did, but it won’t.”

Mr Cramb said Lexus is “not here just to make up the numbers” and suggests his goal is not far-fetched.

“I might sound like a corporate executive getting carried away, but there was a time a few years ago when (former Toyota Australia chief) John Conomos was speaking to the press and said that they would lead the market, and they do.”

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