Stepping On the Gas: Lexus to Use Incentives to Remain No. 1 U.S. Luxury Brand

Last Updated Oct 8, 2010 8:00 PM EDT

A few days after Mercedes-Benz (DDAIF.PK) passed Lexus (TM) to become the biggest-selling luxury brand in the nation, parent company Toyota reportedly told its 1,200 U.S. Toyota and Lexus dealers at an Oct. 7 meeting in Las Vegas that it will roll out bigger incentives on the Lexus brand.

In a blog earlier this week, I wrote that the neck-and-neck sales race to be the No. 1 luxury brand would goad the incumbent No. 1 Lexus and the rising Mercedes-Benz to hike incentives. Luxury brands have all gotten into the habit of a December sales blow-out. The Lexus version, called December to Remember, shows cars given as gifts, with a big red bow on top.

Lexus isn't likely to share the details of its incentive strategy. That means it may be a while before word gets around whether Lexus will cut prices more than it usually does late in the year.

Toyota did take the unusual step of posting a statement on its media web site to "confirm highlights" of the National Dealer Meeting in Las Vegas. Those included the fact that Toyota President Akio Toyoda was there, from the parent company in Japan.

Toyoda took some heat over taking too much time to take responsibility for Toyota's massive recalls tied to claims of unintended acceleration. He seems to be trying to make up for lost time.

"I want Toyota to set a new benchmark in listening to our customers and dealers, sharing critical information and responding better than any car company in history," Toyoda said, according to a written statement. The company described listening as one of its three "cornerstones" under Toyoda.

While the company was mum about incentives, it did say that another of its "cornerstones" under Toyoda is, "Offering the best quality cars at value prices." The company also announced it will add free scheduled maintenance on all Toyota and Scion models.

The third "cornerstone" is, "putting the fun back into driving and owning a Toyota," Toyoda said.


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Photo: Toyota