The mid-size Lexus NX SUV will start at $55K and carry the hopes for sales growth.
The key to Lexus' growth in Australia turns from $55,000. That's the starting price for the coming NX, a mid-sized SUV that's set to become the Japanese brand's bestseller Down Under.
Similar in size to the RAV4, and sharing some parts under the skin, the NX is planned to continue growth which hit 8 per cent through the first half of 2014 and is predicted to continue at 5-10 per cent for at least the next five years.
The first of the aggressively styled NX models for Australia is the 300h, with the front-drive model opening the batting. An all-wheel-drive version is $59,500 and the flagship Sports Luxury version is $75,000. The NX petrol turbo, with a 2.0-litre engine also set for the IS sedan, follows but Lexus is not revealing prices until closer to its arrival next year. It is, however, talking big on the impact of the NX.
"To grow the business we have to attract new customers. Our indication right now is that around 75 per cent will be new customers. In our world, that is significant," Lexus Australia boss Sean Hanley says. "I think there will be, naturally, some existing customers that will come down from RX because it sits in a sweet spot. But it won't be huge numbers."
Standard equipment on the 300h runs from predictable 18-inch alloys, reversing camera and satnav to the more surprising powered second-row seats and "inductive" phone charging, a first for the Toyota group although it is an option at Jeep. The charging works through a touchpad in the centre console, although it is not suitable for all brands.
"There are a lot of good things. Already we have over 100 orders in the system, just for the hybrid," Hanley says. He says Lexus has concentrated on getting the price right for the hybrid, because it is becoming the dominant force in Lexus models.
"We're seeing more acceptance as the premium on hybrid reduces. If you look at the IS 300h, the only thing preventing that outselling the IS 250 is production capacity." Hanley says Lexus is doing well this year, even though it's nowhere near threatening Mercedes-Benz for luxury-class leadership in Australia.
"My expectation is we'll grow 5-10 per cent year-on-year. IS is doing very well and the NX will give us extra growth opportunities, and RC coupe is another opportunity for us," he says. 'I would hope to (sell about) 7000 cars this year."