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Toyota Targets 25% U.S. Lexus Sales Gain for Luxury Comeback

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus, dethroned in 2011 as the best-selling U.S. luxury brand, plans to increase sales there more than 25 percent this year and challenge Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s grip on the top spot.

Sales of Lexus vehicles in the U.S. may reach 250,000, from 198,552 in 2011, Kazuo Ohara, senior managing officer for Lexus, told reporters in Miyazaki, Japan, late yesterday. Gains will come from the new GS sedan that went on sale this month and a revamped ES sedan that arrives by midyear, he said.

“Last year we had some problems with earthquake and Thai floods,” Ohara said. Outselling Germany’s BMW and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in the U.S. is a goal, “if possible,” he said.

Toyota, which also lost its title as the world’s biggest carmaker to General Motors Co. last year, wants a global rebound in 2012 with sales including subsidiaries Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu Motor Co. rising 21 percent to a record 9.58 million. Restoring volume for Lexus, which led U.S. luxury sales for 11 years, is a priority because its cars and trucks fetch higher prices than Toyota-brand vehicles.

Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 and floods in Thailand late last year caused shortages of parts and materials that temporarily idled the Toyota City, Japan-based company’s plants, leaving dealers short of vehicles.

That allowed BMW to outsell Lexus with 247,907 deliveries, followed by Mercedes with 245,192 sales last year.

‘Not Quite Enough’

Lexus “has a shot, but I still don’t think they’ll be able to reclaim the lead this year,” said Jesse Toprak, a Santa Monica, California-based analyst at auto industry researcher

“They will have some momentum because of the new products, and some pent-up demand, but probably not quite enough this year,” Toprak said.

The brand is adding nine new and refreshed cars and light trucks in 2012, including GS and ES, Mark Templin, Lexus’ U.S. chief, said last month. Three “F-sport” models, Lexus cars tuned for high-performance, are also being added, he said.

“When the dust settles I think we will grow more than any other brand we compete with this year,” Templin said in an interview in Detroit last month.

U.S. sales units for both Toyota and Lexus are in Torrance, California.

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