WardsAuto has an interesting interview with Brian Smith, the Lexus USA vice-president of sales, regarding the current LS sedan and its sales struggle against new competitors:
“We don’t feel it’s a problem with the car,” Brian Smith, vice president-marketing for Lexus in the U.S., tells WardsAuto here during a Lexus NX media event. “Many of the buyers in that segment want what’s new and they’re trying it.”
What’s new is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which is getting rave reviews and racking up the growth to show for them. S-Class sales rose 81.8% through May, to 6,381 units.
“[Tesla Model S sales are] right behind Mercedes in volume,” he says. WardsAuto estimates Model S sales tallied 4,600 units through May, down 6.2% from the same period year-ago.
Smith believes most S-Class sales are to brand loyalists who wait for a new generation of the sedan, but some LS buyers may be trying a Tesla.
“They’ll probably come back,” he says. “I think the question remains to be seen how many people will buy a second Tesla.”
Releasing a major refresh in 2012 instead of an all new LS was a curious decision, though it’s important to remember that Lexus was working very hard to bring the spindle grille to every model — a very costly and resource-intensive project.
Despite the strategic value of such a move, it put the LS in a tough position — the new model was not yet ready for release, and there’s no way the Lexus flagship sedan could miss out on the new corporate face. In the end, Lexus had no choice but to stretch out the current model.
Obviously, it would have been ideal for the LS sedan to maintain its sales level, but that’s just not possible with a seven-year-old model. However, the extended development time does suggest that the next-generation LS will be something special.
(And when will the next-generation LS arrive? With no camouflaged prototypes or rumors of any kind, it’s all just a guess. Could be next year, and could just as easily be 2016.)