Lexus Leasing Keeps Buyers in Fold as U.S. Luxury Race Tightens

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus is relying more on leasing than BMW and Mercedes-Benz as it challenges the German brands for the lead in U.S. sales of luxury autos.

About 62 percent of Lexus vehicles have been leased this year, compared with about half for BMW and Mercedes, according to Edmunds.com data. The Toyota division started getting more aggressive with 24- and 36-month lease offers about four years ago, said Jeff Bracken, Lexus’s group vice president.

“It brings customers back to us from a retention standpoint pretty frequently,” Bracken said in an interview Wednesday at an industry conference in Acme, Michigan. “That will be a strategy we’ll continue to embrace. It seems to work well for us.”

Lexus is off to a strong start in what has been a big year for luxury vehicles in the U.S. The brand scored its first monthly win of 2015 over BMW and Mercedes in July, riding an annual summer sales push and demand for its new NX crossover to narrow the sales gap with German rivals.

Deliveries jumped 14 percent this year to 188,664 Lexus vehicles through July. The brand trails Daimler AG’s Mercedes by 3,832 vehicles and BMW AG’s namesake brand by 6,929.

Based on U.S. registrations, Lexus was the leader among luxury brands through May. Those numbers showed 135,594 vehicles for Lexus, 131,431 for Mercedes and 130,569 for BMW, according to IHS Automotive, which collects the data from state records.

The discrepancy between registrations and sales arises from vehicles being reported as sold when delivered to dealerships instead of only to consumers, said Tom Libby, an IHS analyst in Southfield, Michigan.

“This is a long-term trend of these three brands being neck-and-neck,” Libby said. “Lexus has been helped tremendously by the NX and these three luxury brands will be fighting it out for quite a while.”

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