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straight cash homie
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
http://www.caranddriver.com/columns...-japanese-onslaught-germany-is-winning-column
Memory snapshots from Detroit auto shows of my youth: Datsuns parked on candy-red carpet, begging my dad to buy a Renault Alliance (wisely, he bought another Oldsmobile), a Bitter SC, panhandlers in the stairways at Cobo Hall, steam pluming from the manhole covers in a dark, frigid city that the sun seemed to have forgotten. The cymbal crash accompanying the transformation of Detroit’s little January dealer show into the North American International Auto Show in 1989 was the debut of the Lexus and Infiniti luxury divisions of Toyota and Nissan, then doing a good job of plowing Detroit under. Along with Acura, Honda’s upscale division that launched in 1986, this trio of hot rookie brands intended to turn the lights off in Germany next. That was 25 years ago, in case you need another reason to feel old. And it didn’t quite work out as planned, as the sales figures for calendar-year 2013 prove. The bestselling luxury brand in the U.S. last year was Mercedes-Benz, which finished just ahead of BMW by selling about 334,000 vehicles. Mighty Toyota’s luxury division, which once rocked the Germans on their heels with that first sublime LS400, finished only third, with around 274,000 sales. Acura did almost the same business as Audi, or about 165,000 sales, while Infiniti sucked wind at 116,455, joining Lincoln and Volvo as the only luxury brands to actually drop in volume from 2012 despite a resurgent economy and rising car sales overall.

Each of Japan’s luxury makes has its problems. Big L’s trouble is that its sales are heavi*ly concentrated on only two key moneymakers, the ES sedan and RX crossover. The two have been the left and right legs of Lexus for years, and they contributed 64 percent of its 2013 volume. Though dependable showroom performers, the ES and RX are conservative products tied to one generally older buyer demographic. And they only come in one flavor. Unlike, say, Mercedes, which reaches different buyers with the same cars by offering versions ranging from budget taxis to muscled-up AMGs, Lexus churns out the same basic ES and RX for the same aging baby-boom buyer year after year. The recent push for new buyers with the rear-drive IS and its F Sport trim are laudable efforts, if halting and late. Last year, the BMW 3-series outsold both the Lexus IS and ES combined.

Infiniti will long suffer the stigma of having been a dumping ground for rebadged home-market Nissans with aging hardware. The excellent G35/G37 notwithstanding, it has been in semi-crisis mode for two decades as various vehicles have fallen flat. The latest play by Infiniti prez Johan de Nysschen, who was stolen from Audi in 2012, is to replicate VW-Audi’s relational structure by making Infiniti more independent. The first initiatives: Move Infiniti’s headquarters out of Japan to Hong Kong; rebadge all the vehicles with Q, the alphabet’s least-sexy letter (Quack? Quirky?); and replace Infiniti’s one product that seriously competed with German rivals, the G37, with the Q50, an overly electrified mediocrity. But it’s still early days for Infiniti Rescue Plan No. 347.

Acura has been its own worst enemy. Its star car, the TL, once stole customers from up and down dealer row. Then Acura’s designers discovered psychotropic drugs, causing them to confuse modern vogue with gangster gruesome. However, Acura’s biggest blunder was killing off its Integra/RSX, the car that gave the brand both performance credibility and a ladder up for younger buyers. Today, the MDX and RDX crossovers basically carry the franchise while what survives of Acura’s car line is a trio of so-so sedans.

Meanwhile, the Germans have thrived. Certainly, no opponent is more dangerous than one who is cornered. Unlike the Japanese luxury brands—or even quasi-independent Audi—BMW and Mercedes are not just marketing divisions of larger carmakers. If they fail, there’s no mother ship to shovel in money. If C-classes and 3-series don’t sell, the people in those plants and design studios and boardrooms can’t just swap hats and continue on with their day. In Munich and Stuttgart, this is a fight not just for incremental volume or extra profit, it’s a fight for survival.

The Germans have one big advantage: heritage. Which means they already hold the high ground in the market. However, defending it has been costly. BMW has grown by expanding to 11 model lines, not counting Mini, and more are on the way. Mercedes sells more than a dozen lines in the U.S., from the CLA to the S-class to the Sprinter. Meanwhile, Lexus has 11, Infiniti, 8, and Acura just 7. The Germans have run their engineering departments ragged trying to plug holes and tap new veins.

Through it all, Germany GmbH has stayed relevant by being German, which means sophistication and performance not achievable by relying on the parts bins of mass-market cars. There will always be buyers who don’t think that’s worth the price premium. But, as the last 25 years have shown, there are many who will pay it in times when authenticity is rapidly becoming the rarest luxury.
 

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CRESSIDA!!!
1984 Toyota Cressida
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5,633 Posts
His bias is evident, especially when he lists sales as the determining factor in the first paragraph. Pray tell, where was this guy when Lexus was the best selling luxury brand for the entire 2000s.
 

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straight cash homie
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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
His bias is evident, especially when he lists sales as the determining factor in the first paragraph. Pray tell, where was this guy when Lexus was the best selling luxury brand for the entire 2000s.
That is true. Lexus was the best selling brand for quite some time before MBZ and BMW got more aggressive with lease incentives and offering cheaper vehicles to counteract to poach the entry luxury market. Infiniti and Acura aren't doing a whole lot for Japanese luxury, as Lexus is seemingly the fore bearer. (You got to own The Lexus Story if you don't already). But the fact is true that most Lexus sold were ES and RX; Akio's push for more sporty vehicles is starting to change Lexus...those F Sport packages aren't too shabby.

I think in general, the Euro brands will always be seen as more prestigious, regardless of reliability and whatever other factors; it's not just America, but in other parts of the world including Asia and the Middle East, where the general public will always associate Europe with having more brand prestige. With brands like BMW offering no cost maintenance, and most sales being leases for pennies on the dollar, how many daddy's princesses and wannabe d-bags would resist such a deal.
 

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Registered
1986 Toyota Cressida
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Alas got-rice is pretty much spot on with regards to how some see these German brands. The idea of owning a car from BMW or Mercedes resonates strongly with a good many adults whom when they were young, car with those badges were for the wealthy. It matters not if the car is bad, so long as that badge is there many believe it elevates your status.

For people like us, we take the cars as we see them, it could have a Chinese badge and I'll still evaluate it the same way as I do any car. I've driven several entry level luxury cars at this point and to be brutally honest...most don't feel worth their value. The pre-refresh C250 was awful, fortunately the current C300 is good. The X1 not a likable vehicle. The old E90, was the better of the German cars I've driven, but there were definitely things in it I hated like the automatic gearbox(manual is superior in this car) for example. Audi...I can sum up the A4 and Q5 with two words...really boring! So boring they make Corollas interesting. The saddest thing is...of the entry level luxury bunch that I've driven, I preferred the Infiniti G37 or the Cadillac CTS. All things considered and ignoring badge...I much preferred a Hyundai Genesis sedan. Strange how the biggest car was the most fun, the fastest, most comfortable, best value and yet it sports a lowly Hyundai badge. Even to this day I consider the Genesis to be the best car I've driven at Ecars. The sad part is, because its a Hyundai, people will ignore an excellent car for something mediocre with worse value like an Audi A4.
 

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CRESSIDA!!!
1984 Toyota Cressida
Joined
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5,633 Posts
That is true. Lexus was the best selling brand for quite some time before MBZ and BMW got more aggressive with lease incentives and offering cheaper vehicles to counteract to poach the entry luxury market. Infiniti and Acura aren't doing a whole lot for Japanese luxury, as Lexus is seemingly the fore bearer. (You got to own The Lexus Story if you don't already). But the fact is true that most Lexus sold were ES and RX; Akio's push for more sporty vehicles is starting to change Lexus...those F Sport packages aren't too shabby.

I think in general, the Euro brands will always be seen as more prestigious, regardless of reliability and whatever other factors; it's not just America, but in other parts of the world including Asia and the Middle East, where the general public will always associate Europe with having more brand prestige. With brands like BMW offering no cost maintenance, and most sales being leases for pennies on the dollar, how many daddy's princesses and wannabe d-bags would resist such a deal.
I do agree that the BMW/Mercedes/German badge perception will be hard to beat. My mom is the perfect example. Despite me and my dad's best effort, she will not replace her current 330i with a Lexus, irregardless of just how much worse the new 3'er is compared to hers. That's not even a knock on Lexus, she just "wants a BMW". She said within a year she's likely going to be getting a new car.

I don't own the Lexus Story, wish I could find it in stores. Lexus just needs to keep the momentum up. The GS and IS are really are the real deal when it comes to performance, can't wait to drive the RC.
 

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1986 Toyota Cressida
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4,512 Posts
Its very sad but this pic is the truth.



When a huge majority of 1-series owners had no idea the car was RWD...
 

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straight cash homie
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22,846 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I do agree that the BMW/Mercedes/German badge perception will be hard to beat. My mom is the perfect example. Despite me and my dad's best effort, she will not replace her current 330i with a Lexus, irregardless of just how much worse the new 3'er is compared to hers. That's not even a knock on Lexus, she just "wants a BMW". She said within a year she's likely going to be getting a new car.
I wish my mom would prefer to drive a sedan per se,:rofl2:but she feels more "secure" higher up (cough mommy SUVs). Probably why she got another RX. :D However, she did contemplate about an Audi or BMW SUV just because we don't currently have other brands in the family.

I don't own the Lexus Story, wish I could find it in stores. Lexus just needs to keep the momentum up. The GS and IS are really are the real deal when it comes to performance, can't wait to drive the RC.
[ame]http://www.amazon.com/The-Lexus-Story-Behind-The-Scenes-Automotive/dp/0971793573[/ame]

Forget about your book store, get it a used copy online (Cheaper anyway). Had I gone to a Lexus event during that time (2005 or so), I might have gotten one for free since they were giving them out as gifts. Great table item for about $20.
 

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READY TO >> RACE
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51 Posts
Man... I'm definitely an odd one here. I actually WANT a Toyota Century. That to me is the pinnacle of luxury (even though the last time they updated that thing was like the early 90's). But as a "daily" luxury car the old LS400's seemed not too bad, a buddy of mine imported a Celsior and apparently it comes with bags from the factory and you can bring it to the ground (he has a thing with low cars, even moreso than I do), also there's a hella lot of controls in the back to control everything, it's practically like a limo. I really like low key luxury cars and the Avalon fits the bill too.

I don't think my choices are because I'm a fanboy of Toyota, I just don't like flashy cars. I kind of like the look of the Volvo S80 and Saab 93 as well and some of the Korean cars are really good looking too, another buddy of mine just got a 2012 Kia Optima and he loves that thing (it was supposed to be like the "his and hers" cars beside his ex girlfriends Sonata), the design looks pretty sharp too and the top end Kia and Hyundai's look just as good as any other executive luxury car IMO and have pretty good option packages too. I really think you get more for your money compared to the Japanese cars for example if you compare a Forte Koup vs a Civic.

EDIT: I also posted somewhere else about this but to my parents, they don't really care and a car is a car. They just bought an XV Crosstrek and a Mazda3 Skyactiv and they picked them because they liked them, the pricing was right, it had the options they wanted and fit their requirements for what they were looking for.
 
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