TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp. said it plans to launch its Lexus brand in Japan with four vehicles in August 2005.
Toyota aims for annual Lexus brand sales of 50,000 to 60,000 initially, rising to about 100,000 later. The automaker did not say when it expects to reach the higher volume.
As part of a previously announced plan to introduce Lexus to its home market, Toyota has begun distributing guidelines to its 308 Toyota brand sales companies in Japan. The guidelines detail what will be expected of Lexus stores. Those companies are being invited to apply to become Lexus dealers.
Toyota now says it plans to launch Lexus with about 180 dealers in Japan. This year, Toyota had said it planned to launch with about 150.
Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco declined to identify the initial model lineup. Japanese newspapers have reported that it will consist of the LS 430, GS 430, SC 430, and IS 300. Those models are sold in Japan as the Toyota Celsior (LS 430), Aristo (GS 430), Soarer (SC 430) and Altezza (IS 300).
Lexus' U.S.-market lineup of SUVs and crossover models, such as the RX 330 (known in Japan as the Harrier) and LX 470 (known in Japan as the Land Cruiser), will not be rebadged for the Japanese market, according to the reports.
The Japan-market Windom, known in the United States as the Lexus ES 300, also will not be part of the initial lineup, the reports said.
All of the models sold as Lexus in the United States are sold in Japan as Toyota vehicles, although in some cases they come with different powertrain packages or other variations.
Toyota created Lexus as a U.S. luxury franchise in 1989.
Rebadging existing models as Lexus models should allow the automaker to charge premium prices that the Toyota brand has not been able to command in Japan.
For example, the Japan-market Toyota Harrier has a base price of ¥2.49 million, or about $21,000 at current exchange rates. The base price for the similar model sold in the United States as the Lexus RX 300 is $35,700.
The most expensive car in Toyota's Japan lineup, the limited-volume Toyota Century, will not become a Lexus.
The Century, priced at $82,250, combines a 5.0-liter V-12 engine with interior touches such as a built-in fax machine and chrome-heavy styling suitable for a staid limousine.