Following the international launch of the Lexus RC F in the US in September, Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley said the introduction of a brand new 5.0-litre V8-engined road car sparked his interest in participating in the series currently made up of Holden, Ford, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.
“We’ve had very high-level discussions with V8 Supercars,” Hanley told CarAdvice at the local launch of the Lexus RC350 in Melbourne today. “V8 Supercars never approached me, any interest we have shown has come from Lexus. We intitiated a high-level discussion.
“It is certainly something we’re examining. Are we interested? The truth is yes we are [and] frankly we think that RC F may suit that landscape in the future.
“I think the direction that Lexus is going in terms of great design and performance, a coupe V8 … that that association can show off further the Lexus performance credentials. Are we planning to enter should those eligibility changes go our way? Not necessarily.”
The eligibility changes Hanley refers to would mean a two-door coupe could enter the V8 Supercars series. He has flagged that change as a necessity for Lexus to go racing, as the RC F would be their halo car and V8 proposition, while the IS and GS sedans currently do not have the same ‘halo’ version.
“Two years ago I would not have considered it,” the brand chief admitted, but he quickly explained how the change of heart is underpinned by a shifting local motoring landscape.
“In my years growing up V8s was Holden and Ford, and you’ve got to deeply respect that culture and I do,” he continued. “So how do you then take a luxury brand and put it into that space?
“The reality is that the changing landscape of the Australian motoring industry will necessitate I think expansion of opportunities for other brands. I think it won’t be restricted to any mainstream or non-mainstream brand, and therefore that opportunity is real.
“I think the audience is kind of ready and accepting that there is a whole big landscape of brands that we need to explore, and I think that Lexus brand will have great consideration with what we call ‘step up’ buyers – those going from mainstream to luxury brand.”
While Hanley qualifies that Lexus is not out to steal traditional Commodore and Falcon buyers on the approach to the closure of local manufacturing, he is clear about the reasons a shift towards luxury brands is happening and why the Japanese premium brand could capitalise on that with V8 Supercars.
“We’re seeing the luxury market expand, in terms of percentage it’s expanding more rapidly than mainstream,” he says.
“So therefore it tells me that actually there are many people moving from what we call mainstream car brands to luxury car brands [and] I think Lexus is perfectly positioned for that market’s consideration.
“I think the drivers of people leaving mainstream car brands and moving to luxury are very much driven by their economic circumstances, their family circumstances, their security, and a good economy, and I think Australia has pretty well got that covered.
“When you look at it from that perspective, when you go into what’s traditionally been a mainstream exercise or motorsport race, then it kind of makes sense with the dynamics of the changing market that if you want to focus your attention on those coming out of mainstream to luxury then you have to take your brand to that market. And I think that if the V8 elegibility changed, then that opportunity may present.”