PORTLAND, Ore. -- With the halo of the $400,000 LFA supercar faded and no heir apparent, Lexus is calling on a pair of pinch hitters this fall.
Toyota's luxury arm plans an ad campaign that will use the freshened LX full-size SUV and the flagship LS sedan to remind people to look beyond its milquetoast, high-volume models.
"We really want to make people remember that the brand is stretched, that there is an aspirational product above what they're shopping," Brian Bolain, Lexus marketing manager, told Automotive News at a launch event here for the redesigned RX. "It's too easy to get lost in RX/ES land."
The RX crossover and the ES sedan made up 58 percent of Lexus' U.S. sales in 2014.
In addition to the LX/LS ads, Lexus will burnish its performance credentials with an ad campaign highlighting the go-fast F and F Sport models. The campaign will piggyback on the launch of the 467-hp GS F sedan, scheduled to hit the U.S. late this year.
Lexus also plans a third ad campaign, highlighting its expanding range of all-wheel-drive sedans this fall.
The three-pronged approach "makes a lot of sense," Tom Libby, analyst at IHS Automotive, told Automotive News. "They need to communicate this wider message, because their competition has a broad product portfolio and Lexus is competing directly with three key German brands."
Bolain conceded that luxury rivals have been more savvy in coordinating the launches of lower-end products (such as the Mercedes CLA) with high-end models (Mercedes' Maybach line and AMG GT S sports car) to keep a balanced image to sell to consumers. "We need to do the same thing," he said.
Lexus' spotlight on its LX and LS marks a return to the early days of the brand, when the flagship LS sedan was cast as the pinnacle of luxury.
"It's great for us to finally be able to say "pinnacle,'" Bolain said. "We haven't made an aspirational statement in a long time. With the LX updated, we thought this is a chance to bring both together."
Lexus has a chance to do more than that this year. It's within striking distance of reclaiming the U.S. luxury sales crown. Lexus' 222,151 sales through August put it just 1,197 vehicles behind luxury leader BMW.
But Bolain said the three-part ad push isn't a last-minute effort for the sales title.
"There's been no change to our strategy," he said.
"We are always slow out of the gate for the first six or seven months, and then from August on there's a huge push."