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Old 11-15-2006, 08:36 AM   #1
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Default "In Japan, a Lexus just doesn't have that cachet" (LA Times)

"In Japan, a Lexus just doesn't have that cachet" (LA Times)

http://www.latimes.com/classified/au...eds-autos-news

Quote:
In Japan, a Lexus just doesn't have that cachet

Despite its popularity in the U.S., the Toyota brand faces skeptical consumers at home.

TOKYO — These days no one scoffs at Toyota Motor Corp., the world's most profitable auto manufacturer with an apparently fine-tuned sense of what drivers want.

So it may be hard to recall the skepticism in the 1980s when this Japanese company, known then for engineering dependable cars at affordable prices, announced plans to crash the luxury car club controlled by iconic names such as Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac.

Today, Toyota's luxury Lexus sedans, coupes and sport utility vehicles are clogging country club parking lots across America.

Lexus has been the bestselling luxury car in the U.S. for the last six years. Its quiet ride and sleek style give middlebrow Toyota something to appeal to the driver who covets bells and whistles such as an eight-speed automatic transmission, seats that give massages and 19 — yes, 19! — surround-sound speakers.

Yet in Japan, most luxury car buyers have eyeballed the Lexus, kicked its tires and said, "Give me something European."

Germany's Mercedes and BMW are still the luxury cars of choice in Japan. Mercedes, owned by DaimlerChrysler, sold more than 58,000 cars in Japan last year; BMW has delivered 38,400 in the first 10 months of 2006.

Japan may not be the world's biggest market for premium cars, but it's one with growing demand and a consumer thirst for the extras that make for healthy profits.

When Lexus made its debut in Japan in September last year, Toyota executives said they expected to sell 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles in the first year. They have sold just half that after more than 14 months on the market.

"The reality is that, ironically for Toyota, Japan is proving to be a difficult market," said Christopher Richter, an auto industry analyst at CLSA Asia Pacific in Tokyo. "Their difficulty here is that there is greater panache in owning a Mercedes or a BMW. In the U.S., the Lexus is a sensible reward for personal success.

"But in Japan, people want something that says, 'Hey, I spent stupid money on a car.' "

Getting that kind of reaction with a Lexus is difficult in Japan, where the name still means Toyota and doesn't generate much of a frisson. Unlike in the U.S., where Toyota established Lexus as an independent premium brand, Lexus models sold in Japan were all previously marketed as Toyotas: the Altezza, the Aristo, the Soarer and the Celsior.

"Lexus models are just changed models of Toyota cars that didn't sell well in Japan," said Makiteru Ishikawa, an auto industry journalist and a panelist who helps select the prestigious Japan Car of the Year.

He said Toyota's corporate culture remained too focused on high volumes, failing to understand that premium cars must be exclusive, not just expensive.

Toyota executives acknowledge that the launch has been slower than hoped.

"We don't know why they are a little more cautious about buying Japanese for luxury," said Paul Nolasco, a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo. The problem is not that no one knows the Lexus name, he said.

Toyota's research surveys put Lexus brand awareness at 84% of potential car buyers, about 10 percentage points below BMW and Mercedes but still a high level of penetration.

The problem is that Lexus is far behind Mercedes when respondents were asked whether the car represented luxury (though it polled roughly the same as BMW in that category).

Japan is a fiercely competitive playing field for the world's biggest brands. Luxury items such as handbags and jewelry prospered even during Japan's prolonged recession of the 1990s.

Last spring, Louis Vuitton chose Tokyo to host the first ready-to-wear catwalk show outside of Paris. Gucci just opened a flagship store in Tokyo's pricey Ginza district. But Japanese consumers seem reluctant to put Lexus in this rarified category.

"I know the mechanics of Japanese cars are excellent, but to me, the outside looks are similar to every other Japanese car," said Emi Bamba, 57, who has been driving a Mercedes for the last 20 years.

She drove a Cadillac before that after she saw how easily her Japanese Mazda was crushed in a traffic accident. "Japanese cars don't make any impact on me," Bamba said.

That failure is clearly galling to Toyota, which is accustomed to generating mostly happy corporate news. Toyota is not just the world's most profitable auto manufacturer. It is in the passing lane preparing to overtake General Motors Corp. as the world's largest seller of cars.

With its pioneering hybrid cars, Toyota continues to swipe market share from Detroit's automakers and saw its profit soar to $3.44 billion in the last fiscal quarter alone.

Toyota's Nolasco said the news wasn't all bad. Sales of Lexus' IS and GS sedan series have captured nearly one-third of the market against the Mercedes and BMW brands they compete against, he said. And in September, Toyota added the LS460 to the lineup, selling 12,000 of its most extravagant model so far.

Toyota's competitors aren't about to gloat — publicly, at least.

"A Lexus is essentially a Toyota in the minds of Japanese consumers, and Toyota focused for decades on serving a mass market, so the Japanese see Toyotas as a mass product," said Yuchiro Ito, a spokesman for BMW Japan. "But Toyota is extremely serious about developing a serious product, and once they have put the Lexus models through a full cycle of changes, the real battle will begin."

Other observers point to wider problems in the world's second-largest car market. Sales of regular passenger vehicles are declining in Japan, a worrying trend that may be hard to reverse as long as the country's population continues to shrink.

The domestic auto industry is being sustained mostly by an unexpected boom in minis: small passenger vehicles that weigh about half a normal passenger car and are on average 40% more fuel efficient. Japanese manufacturers sold more than 1 million minis in the first half of 2006.

Some see this development as a sign of a new caution among Japanese consumers, a search for value and performance that may play to Lexus' strengths.

"The people buying Lexus now tend to be small company owners who live in small towns," said auto journalist Ishikawa, who says most Lexus drivers are over 40. "They don't want to be regarded as rich or rumored to have made money by doing something wrong. And small company presidents whose businesses deal with Toyota only buy Toyota cars, even if they have the money to buy Mercedes or BMW."

Nolasco said Toyota could generate buzz for the Lexus with changes in design and styling. And the Lexus LS460 has features aimed at anticipating the needs of drivers and passengers, such as infrared sensors that read body temperatures and then provide each rider with individually attuned climate control.

But critics like Ishikawa say Toyota needs to think about the driving experience. He drove the LS460 and found it flawless. "It ran fast, powerful and safe," he said. But there was a deficit in the pizazz department.

"There is no characteristic that brings pleasure in owning it or a feeling that it is fun to drive," he said. "If cars can be said to represent the national culture, then Toyota Lexus is the car that represents Japan.

"It is a straight-A student."
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Old 11-15-2006, 09:35 AM   #2
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At least Lexus has somewhat moved away from just upgrading and re-badging Toyotas but I have to agree with the Japanese on this one.

I will never own a Lexus. Acura is another story with some of their cars (NSX and the old ITR are the best examples), and at least Infinity has the G35 sedan.

It is representative of the typical American way of thinking when my buddy was actually upset that his TSX was an Accord in Ireland and everyone had them. Now, I just say "nice Accord" when I see him.

-Mike.
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Old 11-15-2006, 11:29 AM   #3
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ofcourse

when japanese ppl think lux they think something not made in japan or by japanese

thats just how they were mentally build unless lexus put a badge says build in germany designed by germans i dont think that will ever change
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Old 11-15-2006, 11:36 AM   #4
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I think it's sad, because Lexus makes excellent cars with excellent build quality, cutting edge technology, and top notch interior materials equvialent to of better than the Euros.
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Old 11-15-2006, 01:24 PM   #5
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Looks like ‘hate domestic’ syndrome is common among luxury car buyers world wide except in Europe
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Old 11-15-2006, 03:14 PM   #6
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but werent all former JDM lexus' just toyotas? like how the GS300 was the toyota aristo in japan?
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Old 11-15-2006, 03:21 PM   #7
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Toyota Lexus
That's the problem right there. Too much association.
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Old 11-15-2006, 03:23 PM   #8
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My girlfriend is a tokyo native and has been living there up til 2003 and she disagrees with this, saying that among regular tokyo citizens, the Lexus brand name does carry some weight and prestige, definitely not on the level of the german imports but still regarded more highly than just rebranded toyotas. Anyways thats what she says and she's a bit of a car enthusiast herself.

Incidentally, while there are RHD models of some german makes avail, buying a LHD version carries a LOT more prestige because it screams 'look how much i paid to drive a fancy imported german car with the steering wheel on the wrong side!'.

Ed
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Old 11-15-2006, 08:39 PM   #9
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^^+1
That's something i don't get at all. In Japan u get the choice of buying LHD or RHD for ur AMG Merc and Porsche etc....here is the thing....if you spend want a powerful car u probably want to over pass people often...however if u have a LHD in a RHD country...u can't really see to pass...unless ur on the motorway....
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Old 11-15-2006, 08:39 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by edkwon View Post
My girlfriend is a tokyo native and has been living there up til 2003 and she disagrees with this, saying that among regular tokyo citizens, the Lexus brand name does carry some weight and prestige, definitely not on the level of the german imports but still regarded more highly than just rebranded toyotas. Anyways thats what she says and she's a bit of a car enthusiast herself.

Incidentally, while there are RHD models of some german makes avail, buying a LHD version carries a LOT more prestige because it screams 'look how much i paid to drive a fancy imported german car with the steering wheel on the wrong side!'.

Ed
That's reminiscent of the retards here who convert their cars to RHD.

BTW, Lexus is far from rebadged Toyotas these days. The ES is a reskinned Camry, but the rest of the line is far different. The LS, GS, and IS are all RWD or AWD. Toyota doesn't make a single car that isn't FWD in some form or another. The SUVs are far closer to Toyotas than the cars.

~~Quentin
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Old 11-16-2006, 11:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
BTW, Lexus is far from rebadged Toyotas these days. The ES is a reskinned Camry, but the rest of the line is far different. The LS, GS, and IS are all RWD or AWD. Toyota doesn't make a single car that isn't FWD in some form or another. The SUVs are far closer to Toyotas than the cars.

I think Toyota would argue that the Camry is more of a detuned Lexus ES than the other way around. The Lexus LX470 is by far the most similar Lexus to any Toyota with the air suspension being the only difference from the Land Cruiser. The GX470 is based on the Land Cruiser Prado which is not sold as a Toyota in the US, but the chassis is sold here under the 4Runner, Tacoma and the FJ Cruiser. The RX350 is sold in Japan as the Toyota Harrier but shares parts with the Toyota Highlander here.
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Old 11-17-2006, 03:01 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by fairladyz_gt-r View Post
^^+1
That's something i don't get at all. In Japan u get the choice of buying LHD or RHD for ur AMG Merc and Porsche etc....here is the thing....if you spend want a powerful car u probably want to over pass people often...however if u have a LHD in a RHD country...u can't really see to pass...unless ur on the motorway....
It's exactly what Edkwon said "Incidentally, while there are RHD models of some german makes avail, buying a LHD version carries a LOT more prestige because it screams 'look how much i paid to drive a fancy imported german car with the steering wheel on the wrong side!'.

Of course Japanese want to pass, but they're almost always in a traffic jam. Therefore a luxury car is most of all just to show off.
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Old 11-17-2006, 03:35 AM   #13
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in europe, many benz' and bmw's are taxis, so of course in japan a lexus is just a toyota. luxury always means import, because its no good if its from your own country
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Old 11-17-2006, 03:47 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Blase M View Post
in europe, many benz' and bmw's are taxis, so of course in japan a lexus is just a toyota. luxury always means import, because its no good if its from your own country
In Europe Mercedes and BMW are seen as luxury cars (with Audi). Not only in Germany, but also in all other 50 European countries. This has nothing to do with taxis.
In Europe no US car is considered as a luxury show off car. Since a few years only Lexus is accepted as a "new" luxury car on the market the owner can be proud of.
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Old 11-22-2006, 10:03 PM   #15
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Default LS 460 Car of the Year in Japan

FWIW The LS460 received 2006-07 Japan Car of the Year honors, as announced on 11/18
2nd place - Mitsubishi i
3rd place - Citroen C6
4th place - M-Benz S-class
5th place - Audi TT
6th place - Honda Stream
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Old 11-22-2006, 10:17 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by MTB-er View Post
In Europe Mercedes and BMW are seen as luxury cars (with Audi). Not only in Germany, but also in all other 50 European countries. This has nothing to do with taxis.
In Europe no US car is considered as a luxury show off car. Since a few years only Lexus is accepted as a "new" luxury car on the market the owner can be proud of.
LOL. 50 European countries?

That just threw your view of luxury in Europe right out the window.
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Old 11-22-2006, 10:22 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by MTB-er View Post
In Europe Mercedes and BMW are seen as luxury cars (with Audi). Not only in Germany, but also in all other 50 European countries. This has nothing to do with taxis.
In Europe no US car is considered as a luxury show off car. Since a few years only Lexus is accepted as a "new" luxury car on the market the owner can be proud of.
Umm.... actually, Large US SUV's like Denalies and Escaldes, heck even suburbans, are considered rare and showoffy cars, since you can't buy anything that big in Europe. And Mercs/Porsche/Audi don't carry nearly the clout they do over here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpaone View Post
At least Lexus has somewhat moved away from just upgrading and re-badging Toyotas but I have to agree with the Japanese on this one.

I will never own a Lexus. Acura is another story with some of their cars (NSX and the old ITR are the best examples), and at least Infinity has the G35 sedan.

It is representative of the typical American way of thinking when my buddy was actually upset that his TSX was an Accord in Ireland and everyone had them. Now, I just say "nice Accord" when I see him.

-Mike.
Except the G35 is a Nissan Skyline, the NSX is a Honda in the rest of the world, and if ITR meant Integra Type R, guess what, Integras are Hondas in the rest of the world as well. Infinity, Acura and Lexus are all US only inventions, at least up until now.


Quote:
Originally Posted by quentinberg007 View Post
That's reminiscent of the retards here who convert their cars to RHD.

BTW, Lexus is far from rebadged Toyotas these days. The ES is a reskinned Camry, but the rest of the line is far different. The LS, GS, and IS are all RWD or AWD. Toyota doesn't make a single car that isn't FWD in some form or another. The SUVs are far closer to Toyotas than the cars.

~~Quentin
The thing you're not getting is not that Lexus cars are re-skinned or modded Toyotas, it's that they ARE Toyotas in the rest of the world. The exact... same... car. Lexus is just a brand name that only existed in the US until now. So now the people in Japan are like.... "so you expect us to pay extra for a car that last year was called a Toyota, because you slapped a Lexus badge on it?"

Basically it comes down to exclusivity. Japanese cars just aren't very exclusive in Japan, just like American cars aren't very exclusive in America, and German cars aren't very exclusive in Germany.
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Old 11-22-2006, 11:06 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by SilverE2 View Post
LOL. 50 European countries?

That just threw your view of luxury in Europe right out the window.
Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican City

I count 45... So he was exaggerating a little. How many countries did you think there are in Europe?
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Old 11-23-2006, 11:12 AM   #19
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uh... doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the launch of lexus in japan wasn't gonna be a walk in the park... considering our LS's, GS's, etc. were rebadged jdm toyota's... now trying to do that in japan so late in the game is pointless... just be like nissan and keep one brand...
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Old 11-23-2006, 02:22 PM   #20
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In England Mercedes is viewed nicely but BMW is just another piece of junk. They are everywhere and they are dirt cheap.

Top cars in England are:

1. Aston Martin
2. Old Rolls or Bentley
3. Lambo
4. Ferrari
5. Jaguar and Varients.
6. Mercedes
7. Maserati
8. Lotus
...
way down the list.
xxx. BMW
xxx+1. Ford Cortina.
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Old 11-23-2006, 03:49 PM   #21
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LOL. 50 European countries?

That just threw your view of luxury in Europe right out the window.
Yes, there's a big market difference between east and west europe. West is relatively rich with high amount of cars. East is relatively poor; since 1989 ( fall of Berlin wall) you see the new businessmen who want to show off with their car. In both markets, however, the three German luxury brands Mercedes, BMW and Audi are very popular to 'prove' you're rich.
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Old 11-23-2006, 04:01 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by AruisDante View Post
Umm.... actually, Large US SUV's like Denalies and Escaldes, heck even suburbans, are considered rare and showoffy cars, since you can't buy anything that big in Europe. And Mercs/Porsche/Audi don't carry nearly the clout they do over here..
Yes, there are a few criminals and rappers (well, that's the same...) who drive them here in Europe.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AruisDante View Post
Basically it comes down to exclusivity. Japanese cars just aren't very exclusive in Japan, just like American cars aren't very exclusive in America, and German cars aren't very exclusive in Germany.
You're right about Japanese cars: although they have all the luxury options (Honda Legend, Nissan Maxima etc.) they're not considered as show off cars in Japan.
Ummmm, American cars aren't even seen as luxury outside the US (sorry!).
And the German cars are the exception here: they are seen as luxury cars in Germany. What's the alternative then? they say. Not French (never!), not UK (not reliable), not Italian (beautiful, but it already starts to rust in the brochure), not US (terrible corner handling), etc.

Last edited by MTB-er; 11-23-2006 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 11-23-2006, 04:26 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by phoenix96 View Post
Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican City

I count 45... So he was exaggerating a little. How many countries did you think there are in Europe?
ha ha, thanks for the support. Good job, you even counted the tiny city states.

However, Turkey is considered as part of Asia, although there is a European part (with Istanbul, west of the Bosporus).
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Old 11-23-2006, 09:07 PM   #24
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In England .. BMW is just another piece of junk. They are everywhere and they are dirt cheap.
Really??
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Old 11-23-2006, 09:39 PM   #25
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Really??
Yeah Toyota's not Lexus cost more. Every little, and most are very little dealership has a used BMW going for next to nothing on the used market. It is kind of like Jaguars over here in North America.

Sure there are some nice BMW's but most are just Dirt Cheap used cars.
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