DETROIT -- Lexus, quickly narrowing the U.S. sales gap with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, will have its busiest product year since the brand's inception, with as many as nine new or tweaked models, including a key redesign, three midcycle refreshes, new turbocharged options and a special edition in 2015.
The blitz comes as Lexus targets a 9 percent sales jump to a record 340,000 vehicles and a shot at regaining the U.S. luxury crown it relinquished four years ago. The rollout is crucial to keeping the brand fresh and winning coveted younger customers, said Jeff Bracken, general manager for Toyota Motor Corp.'s luxury marque.
Most Lexus executives, publicly at least, disavow any intention of playing the numbers game against the German giants. That has been a no-no since the 2010 Toyota recall crisis, when President Akio Toyoda blamed the company's quality problems partly on unbridled growth.
But Bracken, a little brasher and bolder, concedes that being No. 1 is still part of his mission in the U.S., Lexus' biggest market, where it reigned as the top-selling luxury brand for 11 years before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan broadsided production and sales.
"If I did not want to resecure that luxury leadership position, then my boss probably put the wrong person in this job," Bracken said at last month's Detroit auto show.
"It's important. No question about it," he said.