Lexus, the premier car brand under Toyota Motor Corp, yesterday began selling its top luxury sport utility vehicle LX570 in China to take on Audi and Land Rover on the rapidly expanding niche market segment.
The imported LX570, third generation of its kind, is a flagship model of Lexus's big-sized SUV product line-up. The eight-seat model has a 5.7-liter V8 engine and six-speed transmission, generating a maximum power of 270 kilowatts.
Toyota priced the model at 1.298 million yuan (US$177,808) in China.
Compared with major rivals, including Land Rover's 4.4-liter Range Rover and Audi's 4.2-liter Q7, the LX570 has the edge not only in price, but also in engine size, length and height.
The launch of LX570 follows the successes of the LS600hL, a hybrid luxury sedan, the hybrid SUV RX400h, as well as the ES350, GS430 and IS300 premier sedans.
Lexus, the first Japanese premier car brand to the Chinese market is teaming up with home rival Honda's Acura and Nissan's Infiniti to gear up development to grab a bigger share of China's luxury car segment from earlier Western competitors, including Cadillac, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Lexus sold 20 percent more vehicles than its original target for last year in China, which also more than doubled from the 2006 level, according to Godfrey Tse, vice general manager of Toyota Motor (China) Investment Co Ltd, who didn't provide exact figures.
"China's sustained economy boom has created a diversified market demand for vehicles, which leading the luxury SUV market to witness rapid development," said Masashi Isogai, president of Toyota Motor China.
Sales of luxury SUVs rose 54 percent to a record of 28,000 units in China last year after maintaining a double-digit sales growth over the past four years.
The car market comprising models with an engine size between 3.5-liter and 4.5-liter is still attracting newcomers, including Mercedes-Benz's ML 350 and Cadillac SRX, to meet demand.
But Tse said market demand for large-sized luxury SUVs grew even more rapidly with sale figures doubling year-on-year since 2005.
About 8,000 large-sized luxury SUVs were sold in China last year, an increase of 154 percent from the previous year. Audi reported sales of its Q7 SUV totaled 3,631 units, accounting for 50 percent of all its imported vehicles.
"Another sales boom is expected for the niche segment in China - bringing in the new model is a good business opportunity for Lexus," Tse said. He said total sales of large-sized luxury SUVs could reach 17,000 units by 2009.
(Shanghai Daily January 11, 2008)