Looking at Lexus Sales in China

Lexus RX 270

There’s an interesting article in Businessweek about how Lexus is performing in China — here are some quotes:

Lexus sold just a fifth of luxury leader Audi’s tally last year in the world’s biggest car market. It also trails BMW and Daimler’s Mercedes.

Although Lexus sales in China grew 61 percent, to 49,000 cars, last year, Audi sold 236,000, says J.D. Power and Associates.

John Zeng, a Shanghai-based analyst for J.D. Power, says Toyota is at a disadvantage because it imports all the Lexus cars it sells in China. Importers pay a 25 percent custom duty and a 17 percent value-added tax. There’s also a consumption tax, based on engine size, that can reach 40 percent.

Lexus’s underdog status is partly due to its later entry into China. It opened its first dedicated showrooms there in 2005, after beginning imports in 1993. Audi, the favored brand of Chinese bureaucrats, is owned by Volkswagen, which entered the market in 1985.

If I’m reading this right, Audi has been in the Chinese market for 27 years and sold 236,000 vehicles in 2010. Lexus, on the other hand, has been in China for 6 years and sold 49,000 vehicles in 2010.

The other key statistic: Lexus increased sales by 61% over 2009. That’s a number I would read healthy growth, but there’s no context — let’s look at some background numbers from Audi, Mercedes & Lexus (BMW includes Mini sales in their numbers and throws the whole thing off):

Audi Mercedes Lexus
2009 157,188 68,500 30,450
2010 227,938 147,670 49,000
% Increase 44 115 61

(I wasn’t able to find the Lexus 2009 sales figures, so I calculated from the article’s numbers.)

So while Lexus is clearly trailing Audi in total units, it did see 17% more growth — in fact, it’s Mercedes’ 115% increase from 2009 to 2010 that’s the real story here.

One final standout statistic is regarding worldwide sales from the article:

Globally, Lexus sales have failed to take off in major markets outside of the U.S. In Japan, sales reached 33,400 cars last year, about half the company’s original target when the brand was introduced there in 2005. By contrast, Lexus’s U.S. sales rose 6.2 percent in 2010, to 229,329. While worldwide sales rose 12 percent, to 410,000 cars, that’s less than a third of luxury car leader BMW’s deliveries of 1.46 million cars.

[Source: Businessweek]