Lexus Australia corporate manager of marketing and after sales Peter Evans said the arrival of a second Japanese luxury brand to rival the traditional German trio – Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz – could actually help local acceptance of Lexus.
“We kind of welcome them because it's about helping establish legitimacy of Japanese luxury cars.
“They’ve tried [to sell cars in Australia] before. I wish them well, but I don’t wish them success,” Evans joked.
Infiniti cars were available in Australia for a brief period at the beginning of the 1990s. The relaunch – set to take place in the third quarter of 2012 – will include three models: the FX sports crossover, the G37 sports coupe and convertible, and the M luxury performance sedan. The luxury offshoot of Nissan will begin by establishing three dealerships in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne before expanding across the country.
Similar to BMW, Infiniti puts special emphasis on the performance aspects of its vehicles, although the brand and its vehicles have more in common with Lexus than their European counterparts.
Evans said Infiniti was likely to face the same challenges among Australia consumers as Lexus does.
“It’s always the three Germans versus little old Lexus,” he said. “They’ve got German engineering, we’ve got Japanese technology.
“Australian consumers believe that the source of all engineering and styling supremacy is Europe and therefore we have a harder road”.
He said the Australian luxury car market was very different to that of the US where Lexus was number one in sales before being overtaken by Mercedes-Benz in 2011 as a result of supply constraints caused by last year’s natural disasters.
“Unlike America where the Germans don’t get a free ride, in Australia, because of our European origins and focus, there’s no doubt that Europeans do better in the Australian psyche.
“Americans treat Lexus the same as BMW/Mercedes. The American consumer is less brand conscious than the Australian consumer and more value conscious.”
Lexus has a reputation for being the value-for-money option in the luxury car segment, while Evans said the brand’s high quality dealer network could not be overlooked for being one of the key factors contributing to its success.
“We appointed the best of the best,” he said.