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Lexus faces up to the future

Bold face: The new Lexus 'spindle grille' as seen on the next-gen GS-previewing LF-Gh concept is set to adorn updated LS, RX and LX models.

New grille soon to arrive on three more models as Lexus debuts fresh look on GS

17 Aug 2011


UP TO three more Lexus models can be expected to get the Japanese prestige brand’s new ‘spindle grille’ look next year after this week’s global unveiling of the new face of Lexus on the mid-sized GS sedan.

The menacing black front fascia is in line to be transplanted across the range, starting with the GS that will be unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours in California on Thursday ahead of its showroom debut in the first half of 2012 in Australia.

Next for the new look are likely to be the flagship LS sedan and the two Lexus SUVs, the large LX and mid-sized RX, that Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb confirmed to GoAuto would be in for “significant facelifts” next year.

These models are also expected to be in line for the F Sport treatment as Lexus ups the ante on its sporting credentials.

Mr Cramb said the new look would give Lexus the chance to revitalise the brand. “We are calling it the bold new face of Lexus, for the new spindle grille,” he said.

“The bold new face is something that is being used by the Americans, that we have adopted as a pre-launch statement, if you like.

“It is a signal of what is to come, and what is exciting about next year for us is that you will start to see the emergence of this new Lexus face across a number of different lines.”

31 center imageFrom top: Lexus RX, LX, LS.

Although Mr Cramb declined to disclose exactly which models will get the grille in 2012, he said: “It will be on more cars than it is not on. It is going to be applied on as many cars as we can over the next few years.”

Mr Cramb said facelifts to Lexus's top seller, the RX SUV, the LS luxury large sedan and the LandCruiser-based LX SUV, would be rolled out progressively in 2012, along with the all-new GS sedan that is due to arrive in the first half.

Lexus Australia is looking to these new models to help put its 2011 ‘annus horribilis’ and severe stock shortages caused by the Japanese earthquake, behind it.

Mr Cramb said Lexus production would be fully back on track by September, with supplies of all models finally meeting demand after five months of shortages.

He said he expected Lexus to sell about 6500 units this year – about the same as last year – but would finish the year on 8000-unit pace, taking that momentum into 2012.

“We definitely lost in the order of 1500-1600 units as a result of that (earthquake), out of production, so we weren't able to sell those cars,” he said.

“Of course, that happened at a pretty ordinary time of the year as well – it was the best selling time.

“May and June is when you need cars on deck, so we have lost those cars for this year, but I think we will leave the year at approximately an 8000 run rate.

“The last three or four months of the year, we would be expecting to run at about that level.”

Mr Cramb said Lexus did not expect to be able to make up the lost sales this year, but would start 2012 with a full showroom of cars, including the CT small luxury hybrid hatch that Lexus expects to vie with the RX and IS mid-sized sedan as the brand's top seller.

“Next year we get a full year of CT, which will be terrific, so we will get to see what that car is capable of,” he aid.

“The launch of GS is something that is really exciting for us, obviously.”

This year, Lexus has sold 633 CT200h hatches, putting the smallest model third behind the IS (1659) and RX (911).

Mr Cramb said he expected the new GS to lift Lexus' fortunes in the mid-sized luxury sector, thanks to its quality.

“I don't think I would be speaking too far out of school to say that I don't think we ever really cracked it with GS,” he said.

“This car is different, so I think we will put a serious competitor into that market. We need to do a few more of those things.”

A compact luxury SUV is expected to be one of the mass-selling vehicles that Lexus will bring to market to ramp up its volumes to match its main rivals from Germany.

Although Mr Cramb would not disclose his company's sales targets for GS, he said it would be well above its sales rate of recent times.

This year, Lexus has sold just 46 GS sedans – down almost 60 per cent on last year.

Lexus has sold a total of 3331 vehicles this year – down 11.7 per cent – while all three German prestige car-makers – Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi – have all sold about three times as many.

GoAuto will bring full details of the new GS on Friday.

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