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September 03, 2008
Toyota's Luxury brand, Lexus, celebrated its third anniversary in the Japanese market this August. Launched as a separate brand in the US market in 1989, Lexus is now the top selling luxury vehicle brand in the US and is sold in 60 countries and territories worldwide. Despite its successes abroad however, the Lexus nameplate was made directly available to Japanese consumers only in 2005, and has struggled to gain market share locally against stiff competition from more firmly established European rivals since its introduction.
According to industry officials, luxury car sales in Japan have been greatly affected by the slowing economy this year, with major brands reporting lower sales figures. From January through July this year, Mercedes-Benz's Japan sales numbers decreased 9.7% compared to the same period last year to 22,969 vehicles, while BMW's Japan sales decreased 16.2% to 22,013 units. Lexus' Japan sales numbers have been hit somewhat harder however, falling 23.2% to 16,674 vehicles over the same period.
Despite the slower sales however, Lexus official are optimistic about the brand's future in Japan and the possibility of expanding on the hard-fought market share it has already won. According to company officials, name recognition for the brand is now firmly established and the time has come for an expanded product line-up. Lexus officials are placing high hopes on upcoming model launches which will make the brand's SUVs available in Japan for the first time and also expand its offering of hybrid powered vehicles – strategic areas where the brand feels it has an advantage over its European rivals.
September 3, 2008 Chunichi Shimbun Online