The long-wheelbase version of the Lexus LS limo is being dropped from showrooms from 2013, with the Japanese luxury car brand saying an increasing number of wealthy Australians are moving from the back seat to the driver’s seats.
Lexus this month announced pricing and specifications for a major update to its large luxury car that will go on sale in Feburary 2013.
The 2013 Lexus LS range will comprise three short-wheelbase models, including the $189,90 LS460 F Sport, $192,400 LS460 Sport Luxury and $217,900 LS600h.
A stretched version of the LS600h, the LS600hL, is available only by special order, with a price quoted on application.
““In five years the size and structure of the [large luxury car] market in Australia has changed significantly,” said Lexus Australia boss Tony Cramb.
“Before the GFC, demand in the large passenger-car market averaged about 1200 vehicles a year. Now it’s around 800.
“Long wheelbase variants are no longer in demand as they once were. Instead there’s a real groundswell of interest in driver-centric short-wheelbase [limo-style luxury cars], especially if they are sports-oriented.
“The large luxury car market in Austtralia can now be characterised as predominantly a driver’s market rather than a driven market.”
In 2008 long-wheelbase luxury cars accounted for 40 per cent of the segment but this year that percentage has fallen to just 18 per cent.
Cramb says the decline in large luxury car sales can also be attributed to the rise in super-luxury SUVs such as the Range Rover and its own LX570.
Rival BMW agrees with Lexus’s view on the trend that is seeing more limo owners abandoning the chauffeur to take the wheel themselves.
The German brand says its competitor for the LS, the 7 Series, has always been focused on staying true to the company’s philosophy of building proper driver’s cars even in big-sedan form.
Just over a quarter BMW 7 Series sales are of the long-wheelbase variety, and mainly the 740iL model.
Audi and Mercedes both say they still have a healthy demand for the extended versions of their A8 and S-Class models respectively.
Mercedes says 35 per cent of S-Class sales are long-wheelbase models – predominantly with the bigger V8 and V12 engines.