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AIMS: More Lexus LFAs for Oz

Super-coupe: Lexus’ first supercar made its local debut in Australian specification at Melbourne.

Increased allocation makes Australia the world’s fourth most popular LFA destination

4 Jul 2011

AUSTRALIA will be the world’s fourth most popular destination for the first Lexus supercar after enough would-be overseas buyers baulked at the LFA coupe’s $700,000 asking price to increase the local allocation to 10.

Lexus announced the increase in Australian LFA deliveries – which is double the number originally forecast and will take place over the next 18 months – at the Melbourne motor show on Friday, when the first local-specification LFA made its local debut.

While the first customer car will arrive here within weeks, the Australian International Motor Show’s blue LFA – number 60 of a total production run of 500 vehicles to be built at the rate of 20 per month over 25 months – will be retained by Lexus for promotional duties.

A further four LFAs have been purchased by Lexus dealers for personal and demonstration purposes, meaning only five will go to private individuals.

However, Australia’s increased allocation of 10 examples – which still falls short of demand here – puts it ahead of every nation except the US, Japan and Germany.

“Australia is viewed as a yardstick for the rest of the world and our increased allocation of LFAs demonstrates the strength of the brand locally and the importance we hold in the global Lexus market,” said Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb.

“For a relatively small market, Australia regularly punches above its weight and LFA is a prime example of this."

31 center imageBelow: Lexus CT200h.

Asked how many LFAs could have been sold given unlimited supply in Australia, Mr Cramb said: “I don't really know. What we've learned through the whole LFA experience... is that people put their hands up - and more than 10 people put their hands up here - but when push comes to shove and it comes time put the $100,000 down that's when you find out just how serious they actually are and I think that's what happend in other parts of the world.

"Clearly we could have done more. We definitely had more than 10 inquiries, there’s no doubt about that."Lexus will not reveal details of its exclusive LFA client base but admits that not all customers are former Lexus buyers and some have also owned a Ferrari.

There are no females among the list of well-heeled male LFA customers that hail from all major capital cities except Perth – despite the West Australian resources boom.

“They are self-made men and car enthusiasts,” said Mr Cramb. “These are highly successful businessmen who are passionate about motor vehicles. This is not the only car in their garage... They see it as a piece of history that they’ve just got to have.”

No Nurburgring Edition versions will be available here and no two examples of Australia’s 10 LFAs will be the same, although three will be white and two will be black – in addition to Lexus Australia’s blue model and single yellow, orange, red and navy blue examples.

Lexus also used the Melbourne show to stage the Australian debut of its large LF-Gh hybrid sedan concept, which will form the basis of a production model to replace the GS next year.

While Lexus Australia will release a special-edition GS later this year, the next-generation executive sedan range is expected to comprise an F Sport variant, with Mr Cramb confirming the local F Sport line-up will “more than double” in the next 12 months.

Although the BMW M3-rivalling IS F sports sedan remains its only fully fledged F model, Lexus Australia currently offers visually and dynamically enhanced F Sport versions of the new CT200h hybrid and IS sedan, so expect F-badged derivatives of the LS limousine and RX crossover to also become available here by mid-2012.

Also revealed in Melbourne was a 2.4-litre CT200h concept, which was inspired by the similarly engined hybrid that contested last month’s Nurburgring 24-hour race and should morph into a more powerful version of the standard 1.8-litre hybrid hatchback.

The ‘CT240h’ show car featured a range of performance and styling upgrades, including 20mm-lower suspension, 18-inch polished alloy wheels, a unique body kit, rear diffuser and quad exhaust outlets.

“The Australian International Motor Show gives us the perfect opportunity to engage with potential customers and assess their reaction,” said Mr Cramb.

“There are elements of the CT200h Concept that are currently under evaluation by Lexus for introduction into the local market.”

Mr Cramb pointed out that the CT200h out-sold its two most direct rivals – the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 – in its first two months after its March release in Australia.

He said Lexus had been on track to set an all-time sales record this year before Japanese earthquake-related production delays strangled supplies in April, May and June. Full production has now resumed and Lexus will attempt to clear a two-month waiting list for the CT by September.

Audi has left Lexus in its wake this year and with 6629 sales to May (up 12.7 per cent) - versus Lexus' 2373 (down 9.5 per cent) - has closed the gap to BMW (6677, down 6.4 per cent) and Mercedes-Benz (7856, down 8.2 per cent).

Mr Cramb would not comment on speculation about future Lexus models including a compact SUV, but said the Toyota luxury brand was not about to pack up its bags.

"Audi is clearly on a run at the moment. The business is clearly cyclical. If it wasn't for the earthquake we would be on a run too because we were running at record pace. We lost three months supply - that will mean we'll do about the same volume this year as we did last year.

"We have a plan to grow the business. We have some exciting models we'll be telling you about... and we'll be a force in the future."Lexus also announced the winner of its CT200h City Challenge iPhone game competition in Melbourne after the top two competitors went head-to-head at the show, with Ben Davies from Emerald in Victoria fending off Perth’s Eugene Potito to win the keys to a CT200h.

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