Toyota bets revamped sedan to boost U.S. Lexus sales
DETROIT (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Co (7203.T: Quote) is betting that its redesigned ES 350 sedan will buoy sales of its Lexus brand, which lost its place last year as the top-selling luxury nameplate in the United States.
The 2013 Lexus ES 350 and its hybrid version, the 300h, will go on sale in mid-August. Lexus expects sales of both models will reach about 5,000 a month, Tim Morrison, vice president for sales and dealer development said in Dearborn on Wednesday.
As a brand, Lexus is aiming to sell 250,000 vehicles in the United States this year, up 25 percent from 200,000 last year. The ES 350 is Lexus' top-selling car.
Lexus saw its 11-year streak as the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S. market end last year, due in part to vehicle shortages after the Japanese earthquake last year. But analysts say the Lexus lineup also suffered because it lost some of its luster.
Lexus is hoping to draw younger buyers with its new sportier design, including a "spindle" grill that narrows in the middle, that the company has described as "the new face of Lexus." Executives said Lexus models launched earlier this year, such as the Lexus GS 350, have gained traction.
"We needed new product and we're getting it now," Morrison said. "Everything we've launched seems to be working well, knock on wood."
In the first five months of 2012, Lexus sales were up 14 percent to just over 88,000. It trails Mercedes-Benz and BMW respectively. Mercedes sold 113,520 cars through May 2012, up 19 percent. BMW sales were up 14 percent to 104,779.
(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)
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