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Automotive News Interviews Lexus Dealer Advisory Council Chairman

Automotive News has a great interview with Stefan Smith, chairman of the Lexus National Dealer Advisory Council, which gives a very open view at how the dealerships feel about the recent increase in recalls and what kind of vehicles they’d like to see next:

What challenges do Lexus dealers face in the next year?

We don’t have any new product launches to speak of in 2008. We have the new LX 570, which replaces the LX 470 sport-utility. Then we have the launch of the “F,” which is the performance element that Lexus is getting into. We hope it will compete with BMW M series and Mercedes AMG. But those are small numbers.

In our core product — like ES and RX, IS — we don’t have anything new for ‘08. So we’re going to go through the entire year with virtually no new products. That’s the biggest challenge I would say that we have.

What’s missing in the Lexus lineup?

We have asked for and not gotten a sport-utility that would compete with, say, (Cadillac) Escalade or a (Chevrolet) Suburban-type vehicle. We’d like a vehicle with two captain’s chairs in the second row where you can walk through to get to the third row. And then third-row seats that fold down flat. We’ve never gotten there.

What does the factory need to do to help you sell more vehicles?

There are some segments of the market Lexus doesn’t compete in as well as we would like. The GS 350 vs. the BMW 5 series — we don’t compete that well in that segment. Would we like to? Sure. Do we compete in other segments and have an advantage? Yes, we do.

You’d like to have cars that are great in every segment, but you can’t be everything to everybody.

There’s plenty more to the interview, as well. There’s certainly no cause to doubt Stefan Smith’s honesty, he’s quite clearly a straight shooter and not one to mince words.

I do find his talk of dealers wanting a Escalade competitor surprising, considering that you could make a case for either the GX or LX fitting the bill. Admittedly, both lack the seating arrangement he mentioned.

(Photo above is Stefan Smith’s Lexus of Memphis dealership, where he’s also the general manager.)

[Source: Automotive News]