CARS

Lexus adds ES to Japan lineup to counter slowing sedan sales

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TOKYO — Lexus is adding the ES sedan to its lineup in Japan for the first time, betting that expanding demand for premium rides is enough to counter shrinking sales of full-size cars in the domestic market.

The front-wheel-drive ES, part of the original two-car Lexus lineup when the brand launched in the U.S. in 1989, was long geared toward the U.S. and China markets. Its debut in the home market adds another sedan to the bottom of Lexus’ sedan-heavy domestic lineup.

Sawa: Stepping up exposure

Lexus International President Yoshihiro Sawa said the company hopes to attract executive-level customers in their 40s or 50s. Incremental ES sales from Japan may also buttress global volumes for the nameplate as consumer tastes in the U.S. and elsewhere shift toward crossovers and SUVs.

Lexus launched the redesigned seventh-generation ES here Oct. 24 at its Lexus Meets brand lounge near down-town Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza shopping district. Lexus said it has received 2,000 preorders for the ES, about 70 percent from existing Lexus customers. About half the customers are corporate buyers, Sawa said.

The ES sales target is 350 vehicles per month in Japan and 11,500 a month globally. Lexus’ sales in Japan more than doubled to 33,000 units in the first six months of 2018.

Lexus aims to ramp up marketing efforts to stoke interest in the new sedan. The Lexus Meets lounge, for example, offers hourlong test drives of every Lexus nameplate.

“We are still a young brand,” Sawa said. “We will offer experiences that surprise new customers through marketing and step up our exposure.” Parent Toyota Motor Corp. began selling vehicles under the Lexus brand in Japan in 2005.

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