Sales of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi all rose last year. BMW and Audi fell short of their 2005 sales targets.
BMW-brand vehicle sales jumped 16.2 percent to 44,980, missing a target of 50,000. Audi sales climbed 11.6 percent to a record 15,420, falling short of a target of 17,000. Mercedes-Benz sales rose 4.8 percent to 45,852. DaimlerChrysler Japan did not announce a 2005 target for the Mercedes brand.
Lexus sales almost exactly met the brand's official 2005 sales target. Japanese carmakers often set low sales targets for a new model and then exceed them by 50 percent or more in the first few months of sales.
By one indication, Toyota did not expect Lexus to take sales from the established luxury brands in its first year.
Toyota spent months training Lexus sales staff in providing service more suited to luxury-car buyers than Corolla customers. But when the Lexus GS sedan and SC sports car went on sale at the end of August, followed by the IS sedan in late September, there was a gap in their training. Customers found that the Lexus sales staffers were not able to answer basic questions comparing Lexus cars to BMW's and other European brands.
The implication: Toyota aimed Lexus at Toyota buyers moving up, not Mercedes owners.
Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe denies that Lexus in Japan is focused on Toyota owners. "Our plan for Lexus is to advance into other markets, developing Lexus into the world's premium luxury brand," he says. "From that perspective, we're aware of the European luxury cars, including the German brands."
"I think we've done training on our competitors, but maybe the training was insufficient," he says. "If so, they've taken immediate action to correct that."