European sales reached a record level of 25,000 in 2004, an increase of 15% on 2003.
Stuart McCullough, director Lexus division Europe, says: "We will never reach the 2,000 or so European dealer count of our German competitors. We believe selling quality, high technology premium products through a smaller dealer network who are totally focussed on offering the best customer satisfaction will give us a clear competitive edge.”
This year Lexus expects to sell 29,000 vehicles in Europe, a further growth of 20% and by the end of the decade European sales should reach 65,000 units.
McCullough expects the recently launched GS to achieve around 5,000 sales in Europe this year and over half will be conquest sales.
“The UK will account for 50% of the new GS European sales in the car’s first full year,” says Steve Settle, Lexus GB director, “But this would reduce to around 30% as other Eastern European markets develop.
"We sold just over 10,000 Lexus vehicles in the UK last year and we expect to sell 12,000 units this year. Our business plan is to grow this total to 20,000 annual sales by 2010," says Settle.
"A significant amount of this growth will come about because of the introduction of our new models which will attract increased interest from the business and fleet markets. The RX400h hybrid will offer significant benefit in kind tax savings and the introduction of the new IS with our first Lexus diesel engine option will drive our sales forward. Currently our fleet sales account for 25 to 30% of our total registrations but by the end of 2006 we expect our sales to be split 50-50, fleet and retail".
The current UK level of 50 Lexus Centres will be slowly increased to 58 over the next few years and in most cases these new centres will be operated by existing business partners. Currently 60% of the Lexus Centres in the UK are twinned with Toyota dealers.
"In the next few months we will be launching a revised Lexus used car programme which will keep supplies of our used cars going through the Lexus Centres. It is important to maintain or high product residual values as we grow the franchise through business and fleet sales," says Settle. Four models make up the GS range, the GS300, GS300 SE, GS300 SE-L and GS430.
All GS300 models use the new Lexus 3.0-litre, V6, 245bhp direct injection petrol engine with dual variable valve timing. The GS430 uses a revised 4.3-litre, V8, 279bhp unit. All versions use a new electronically controlled, close-ratio six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift mode.
UK on the road prices range from £30,400 to £46,755.