With 150-200 cars expected to be sold in 2015, UK will be biggest European market for the RC F

With 150-200 cars expected to be sold in 2015, UK will be biggest European market for the RC F

Alain Uyttenhoven, the head of Brussels-based Lexus Europe, has told just-auto that it is "impossible to catch the German three, worldwide" but that the brand is determined to be "number four". 

Interviewed at an event in England to mark the 25th anniversary of the LS 400, the brand's first car, Uyttenhoven spoke candidly, noting that Lexus "didn't always have a consistent identity, but now we do".

The angular new NX crossover is intended to be "a polarising car: the only way we can exist is by standing out". He further claims, "the good news is that in all our worldwide research, two thirds of those we asked said they would change brands when they saw the NX. The first reason why people change their cars is when they like the design of something else. We have been selling the NX 300h only since September but already, we have over 10,000 orders, with the NX 200t [non-hybrid 2.0-litre petrol turbo] to follow in 2015".

Toyota's luxury car division has had a roller coaster ride in recent times. In 2007, global sales peaked at 518,000 before crashing as the Great Recession gripped so many countries. Then came the after-effects of the Japanese tsunami, which shut some TMC and supplier plants across Japan for months. Last year, Lexus sales recovered to a new high of 523,000. That is around a quarter of where Audi has stated it wants to be by decade-end.

Lexus Europe's boss believes that the brand is now "out of its adolescence" and so as well as standing for "high quality vehicles, excellent customer service and environmental responsibility, it is now time for emotion to be added". This means we can expect more high performance models, better driving dynamics and less conservative styling. This began with the limited edition LFA supercar, and is now being accelerated as the NX and RC F Coupe go on sale.

Russia is Lexus Europe's largest market but there, hybrids are less important than they are in the UK, the number two market. Fully 99 percent of vehicles sold in Britain this year will be petrol-electric models, the brand's UK head, Richard Balshaw told just-auto.com at the same 25th anniversary event attended by Alain Uyttenhoven. The figure for the whole of Europe-Russia is 59%. This is due to the weighting of vehicles such as the petrol-only ES 250, ES 350, RX 270, RX 350, GX and LX SUVs which are popular with Russian buyers but not offered in most EU markets.

Asked why Lexus now sells not one diesel vehicle in the region it terms as Europe, its boss believes the brand is ahead of the curve, even while acknowledging that the majority of cars sold in most EU countries have compression-ignition engines.

"The next big discussion will be about particulates. CO2 is not behind us, but we have to go to 99g/km by 2020. So, diesel has been growing because that CO2 average is easier to achieve with diesel. But the cost of purifying a diesel car is going to rise, so in the future, these engines are going to cost a lot more," he adds. "Paris is planning to ban diesels from the city centre and in France three quarters of cars are diesels, so we will see big changes coming. For us, [petrol] hybrid is the answer".

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