MEXICO CITY — Lexus is finally entering the Mexican market after years of study, bringing its lineup of luxury vehicles and their hybrid variants to a nation where sales of high-end cars and utilities have proved resilient, and where hybrids in particular are growing in popularity.
Lexus said Thursday that it will open its first stores in Mexico's three largest cities — here in the capital, Monterrey and Guadalajara — in the fourth quarter of 2021 to take advantage of a freshened product cycle for the 2022 model year.
"We are convinced that this is the right moment to introduce Lexus into the Mexican market," said Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America, in a statement. "We have high expectations with the consolidation and progress that the luxury segment has had, and that's why we made the decision to bring Lexus to Mexico."
Lexus said it would import the flagship LS 500 sedan and its hybrid variant to the Mexican market as well as the more affordable ES sedan. The LX SUV and the UX, NX and RX crossovers will also go on sale here.
The Japanese automaker said it expects to be the "greenest" high-end brand in Mexico by using its hybrid technology to reduce emissions and increase fuel economy.
Lexus' move comes on the 30th anniversary of the birth of the brand and following the rise of corporate cousin Toyota to fourth place in Mexican market share from sixth place just five years ago. Part of that success has come from Toyota's domination of the hybrid space, initially with the Prius and now with several additional hybrid models.
In the luxury market, Lexus could have a similar advantage with its extensive hybrid portfolio. Not only are gasoline prices higher in Mexico than in the U.S. generally, but local governments in the massive Mexico City metropolitan area limit the circulation of gasoline-powered vehicles during smog alerts. Hybrids and electric cars are exempt from those limits.
Tom Sullivan, president of Toyota Motor Sales de Mexico, said in the statement that Lexus seeks to be the leading brand in terms of dealer profitability and store volume.
While overall auto sales in Mexico fell from a record high of 1.61 million vehicles in 2016 to 1.42 million last year, the luxury auto market continues to grow.
Last year, BMW sales rose 15 percent to just over 25,000 vehicles, and Mercedes-Benz was in second place with 16 percent growth to about 20,500 vehicles. Sales at Jaguar Land Rover more than doubled last year, while Volvo and Infiniti posted more modest gains.
Acura, Audi and Porsche sales fell slightly in 2018 compared with 2017, according to the Mexican Automobile Distributors Association. Sales through March of this year among the leaders in the luxury segment have been mostly flat, the association said.
Sales of hybrids and electric vehicles last year, dominated by the Toyota Prius and Prius c models, rose nearly 70 percent to just over 17,800 vehicles, according to data published by the distributors association.