In a year when Lexus inventories were limited by the earthquake in Japan, losing some customers to rival luxury brands was to be expected.
But Peter Hennessy, incoming chairman of the Lexus National Dealer Advisory Council, predicts a batch of new products and improved availability will win back those customers and attract some new ones.
"I am sure we had some defectors," he said. "Availability is going to be far better this year. We have new product coming. I think we'll be attracting a new customer to the brand this year."
Lexus plans to launch the redesigned GS 350 this month. Redesigns of the ES 350, IS 250/350 and LS 460 will come during the next 18 months. Lexus will be using the "spindle grille" front fascia across the lineup, including the mid-cycle change to the LX 570 SUV.
After the quake, "we were selling to our existing customer base in a greater proportion than in prior years," said Hennessy, an Atlanta-area dealer who also holds Honda and Porsche franchises and is a partner in Cadillac, Rolls-Royce, Mazda, GMC, Buick and Jaguar-Land Rover stores.
Last year Lexus lost the luxury sales crown to BMW and Mercedes-Benz for the first time in more than a decade. Still, Hennessy said he was encouraged by the conquest rates of the CT 200h hybrid hatchback that debuted early in 2011. He said customers were willing to wait five months to take delivery after the quake depleted inventories.
As of Jan. 1, Lexus dealers had only a 20-day supply after a strong December sales promotion. But Hennessy predicts fresh allocations will expand inventories quickly.