Toyota’s Lexus brand surges globally, despite US sales stall
Toyota Motor Corp.’s luxury Lexus brand posted a double-digit sales gain last year, taking its 30th anniversary in stride as strength in China and Europe offset stalled demand in North America.
The brand, which debuted in 1989, grew 10% to 765,330 vehicles worldwide, Toyota said in a statement Monday, powered by strong sales of its UX subcompact crossover and best-selling RX sports utility vehicle.
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China sales soared 25% to 202,000 vehicles in 2019 and deliveries in Europe climbed 14% to 87,000 vehicles. But in North America, the brand’s largest market, sales came to 325,000 vehicles — which Toyota said were “level with prior year.“
Lexus’ shift toward smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrid gas-electric motors has proved popular in China and Europe, but an aging product lineup in the U.S. — where larger vehicles rule the road — has cost it market share and momentum.
Toyota has long sought to make Lexus a global brand, and its rapid growth in China and Europe after years of sluggishness is helping realize that goal. Company officials say they haven’t forgotten about the U.S. market — which it once dominated — and have a series of newer vehicles in the offing.
Sales in the U.S. fell 0.1% last year to 298,114 vehicles. That marked a fourth straight year of declines and the lowest level since 2013.
Lexus sold its 10 millionth vehicle last year, a testament to its success over other Japanese luxury brands such as Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti and Honda Motor Co.’s Acura, whose cumulative worldwide sales total 2.6 million and 5.4 million, respectively.
But the Toyota premium brand still trails behind German rivals. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz saw 2019 sales rise 1.3% to 2.34 million vehicles, besting No. 2 BMW AG’s 2% gain to 2.17 million vehicles.