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Toyota and Lexus: A Tale of Twin Brands

There's a nice piece of brand analysis in the New York Times today comparing sales trends for Toyota and Lexus. According to Kelly Blue Book sales data, Toyota is down while Lexus is up. That's odd, because, of course, both brands are owned by Toyota, and the vehicles share many common parts. Here are the numbers:

- Sales of new Toyotas have fallen 15% over the last few months, while Lexus is up 5%.

- Residual values of used Toyotas are down slightly, while Lexus values are stable.

- The number of current Toyota owners who plan to stick with the brand is down, while Lexus brand loyalty is up.

Here's the kicker: This is despite the fact that, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, one is more likely to suffer unintended acceleration driving a Lexus than a Toyota. Toyota gets all the press because eight million cars have been recalled compared to 50,000 Lexi. But on a per-capita basis, the greater hazard is a Lexus.

Lexus and Toyota are designed by the same team and built in the same factories -- the two marques have the same recall-worthy floor mat design, even. But one look at the numbers makes the conclusion inevitable: the general car-buying public, which is clearly responding to the information that they're getting about unintended acceleration, has no clue about the most basic fact of all: that, as far as this problem is concerned, Toyota and Lexus are the same car!

Which leads me to ask what's bound to be an unpopular question. If the car-buying public doesn't know the difference between a Toyota-brand and a not-Toyota brand, maybe the company is right when it implies that "unintended acceleration" is largely due to drivers who momentarily confuse the gas pedal for the brake?

caption: Seasame Street

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