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GS dodges a bullet

Reprieve: The fourth-generation Lexus GS almost became a victim of the GFC.

Lexus admits that the GFC almost killed its 5 Series-rivalling GS sedan

9 Apr 2012

LEXUS almost killed-off its GS mid-size luxury sedan midway through the development cycle of the fourth-generation model in 2008 due to sluggish global sales in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Speaking at the launch of the latest version in Victoria last week, Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb revealed that Toyota’s decision-makers felt that resources could be better utilised in other parts of the company’s model portfolio.

With BMW 5 Series segment buyers ignoring the previous-generation GS around the world, he revealed that the Japanese engineers faced an uphill battle convincing management not to pull the plug.

In the end, the pro-GS people successfully persuaded Lexus’ bean-counters that no luxury car-maker would be truly taken seriously without a medium-sized sports sedan.

But Mr Cramb said the GS had to improve on its driving appeal, interior packaging, and exterior styling, to keep it falling behind the German and English competition.

“The GS was seriously considered (for the chop),” he said. “GS (plays in what is) probably the toughest segment in the luxury-car business.

“Firstly, it is shrinking, it’s true, but it has increasingly become the area where you’ve got to make a statement as a luxury brand. And we haven’t really globally been able to crack this market.

“I think the people who were looking at making that decision (to kill the GS) were saying: ‘Why do we keep doing this? Why don’t we focus somewhere else?’ “And you have to remember the timing – it was during the GFC and the business wasn’t fantastic – so you have to look at the resources that are always limited, and decide whether we should put it there or should we focus on something that describes us.”

31 center imageMr Cramb (left) said that a strong emotional reaction to the GS’s impending demise from engineers within the company as well as several overseas market heads helped grant a stay of execution.

“But the passion that kept coming back from the markets was to keep going and to try and get it right and to never give up.

“And that’s why I am so spirited about the GS being there because it is now such a great car. And I think it gave the enthusiasm to the engineers to keep going and it gave them the resources to make it a good one.”

Although nobody at Lexus will confirm its existence, a high-performance ‘F’ variant to take on the BMW M5 is thought to be part of the drive to increase the car’s appeal internationally.

Speculation points to a development of the existing IS F’s direct-injection 5.0-litre 32-valve V8, which currently delivers 311kW of power and 505Nm of torque to help the IS F sedan accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.

“The chief engineer says it is the most common question he gets, and I think it would be awesome,” said Mr Cramb of a GS F.

“I would love to see one. I’ve tried to convince them to do it ever since I first saw the new GS last June. That would be a rocketship, an absolute rocketship.

“It would seem to make sense, but at this point of time there is no official confirmation from a production point of view.”

Less likely after its near-death experience is the GS following its German rivals in offering further bodystyles such as a wagon.

“I do think that if we had additional bodystyles that would be great, but we don’t. I think people are moving away from that sort of bodystyle and moving into SUVs.

“If I were making that sort of engineering decision, I think I would probably err on the side of a smaller SUV than go into a sportscar that is also a wagon. It is a very limited market.”

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