LOS ANGELES -- Lexus General Manager Mark Templin is firing back at critics who say the glory days are over for Toyota's luxury division.
What's true is that Lexus' 13-year streak as the top-selling luxury brand in the United States will end this year -- thanks to recalls, the Japan earthquake, the Thai flood, a strong yen and a fallow product cadence.
This year Lexus will finish third in the prestige-brand U.S. sales race. Through October it sold 153,739 vehicles, down 16 percent. Mercedes-Benz was tops at 206,632 sales, and BMW was second with 199,552.
Much of the decline resulted from Lexus having blown out its inventory just as the March earthquake hit. Because of Lexus' reliance on a Japan production base -- all models except the RX 350 are built there -- its inventories were crippled until last month. It will be the first quarter of next year before dealers are even close to what they need in terms of days' supply.
But Templin said in an interview: "We're back up and rolling really good." Next year "is going to be a big year."
For one thing, four redesigned Lexus sedans will debut before the middle of 2013.
Templin declined to give a target volume for 2012. But he predicted U.S. sales of luxury vehicles will rise by 100,000 units next year and said Lexus will see significant growth.
All four of Lexus' core sedan lines will be redesigned, starting with the GS 350 and GS 450h sport sedans arriving in February, followed by reworked versions of the ES 350, IS 250 and 350, and LS 460 and 600h.
In early 2014, the redesigned volume-leading RX 350 crossover will arrive.