Can the LS rescue Lexus in Japan?

Amid much ceremony—well, a cello player, a singer and and a brace of dancers—Toyota today launched the top of the range Lexus LS460 in Tokyo. The company will hope that the new model, launched a year after the Lexus marque was unveiled in Japan, will help boost disappointing sales. In contrast to the US, Japan hasn’t yet taken to the Lexus brand. Following it’s launch last year, Toyota missed its Lexus sales target by almost half. Analysts says one reason was the lack of the high end LS model. Another has been the huge popularity of BMW and Mercedes-Benz of which wealthier Japanese just can’t seem to get enough. Still, the LS460 will certainly give buyers something to think about. Ranging from $66,000 to $82,000, this Lexus is certainly expensive enough to rival BMW and Mercedes. It’s also packed with gizmos, such as Toyota’s newest pre-crash safety system, radar cruise control, and a meaty 4.6 liter V8 engine. Next spring, two new gas-electric models will follow featuring a new hybrid system that combines a high-performance motor with a newly developed 5.0-liter V8 engine. Like the vocalist at today’s ceremony, Lexus may yet hit the right notes in Japan.

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