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Lexus (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Lexus (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Driving It Home

Lexus needs more than just reliability to win luxury customers Add to ...

Despite the arrival of key new models such as the ES, GS and LS in the last year, Lexus Canada sales are down 2.3 per cent on the year and in February they were off an even more worrisome 5.1 per cent. Just wait for May, however.

That’s when Lexus – not just in Canada but around the world – plans to launch its first global advertising campaign, reports Automotive News. The global campaign, confirmed by Lexus Canada spokesperson Sandy DiFelice, is being kept largely under wraps, though some details are emerging.

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“Our intent is to align (the) timing of (the) Canadian launch to (the) global launch,” said DiFelice in an email response to my questions about the Lexus re-start. “We’ll likely start with online campaign/activity and build from there.”

DiFelice noted that more will be revealed closer to the May campaign launch. But it seems obvious that Lexus, as Automotive News notes, is anxious to reach out to potential customers who have not considered Lexus ever before. Even with such an important global launch just weeks away, the industry publication reports that Lexus “hasn’t determined if it will adopt a single tag line or go with various tag lines.” That said, Brian Smith, vice-president of U.S. marketing for Lexus, says Lexus is aiming for a consistent message.

DiFelice would not say how Lexus Canada will tailor the Canadian message to fit the new global campaign. It seems likely that the brand campaign will be tied to the arrival of the redesigned Lexus IS sedan, however. The IS has traditionally been aimed at the likes of BMW’s 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, though the IS has never posed a challenge to either.

Lexus is Toyota Motor’s luxury division and for its first 20 years or so enjoyed remarkable success. But in recent years, despite a continuing run of strong quality scores, Lexus has lagged behind the big German luxury brands.

In 2012, Lexus Canada had a solid comeback year, with sales topping 15,000. But Audi, once a laggard in the luxury game, sold 20,000 vehicles. Meanwhile, more than 31,000 BMWs were sold in Canada, with Mercedes-Benz topping 33,000.

Around the world, reports Automotive News, Lexus sold 476,566, while BMW sold 1.54 million models worldwide, Audi hit 1.46 million vehicles sold and Mercedes-Benz had 1.32 million worldwide sales. Lexus, then, is far, far behind the volume luxury leaders.

To make Lexus more appealing, a new styling direction has been introduced, with the centerpiece a highly controversial spindle-like design to the grilles on new Lexus models. Grille design aside, one question that has arisen is the fate of Lexus’ long-standing North American tag line, the “Pursuit of Perfection.”

When Lexus arrived 23 years ago in Canada (24 in the U.S.), that messaging suggested bulletproof reliability. And Lexus delivered. But in an age where every car company builds very reliable vehicles, the absence of fault is not enough to separate Lexus from the pack. Luxury buyers want more than cars that don’t break.

So what does “perfection” mean to Lexus in the 21 st century? Stay tuned for an answer in May.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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