Lexus launches $375k LFA

Toyota chief Akio Toyoda did his best to liven up proceedings, but even the unveiling of a production version of the $375,000 Lexus LFA supercar couldn’t help this year’s Tokyo Motor Show capture the excitement of recent years. Toyoda helped develop the Lexus LFA and when he unveiled it at the show’s opening day on October 21, he said he hoped visitors to the biennial event “can leave feeling that automobiles are exciting and will want to come again.”

On Day One, though, there were visibly fewer attendees than in 2007 when the Nissan GT-R, another very fast car, was the star. Indeed, while Toyota also unveiled the exciting FT-86, an affordable sports car due for release in 2011, and other automakers showed off a host intriguing hybrids and electric vehicles, the absence all major international carmakers-and even two Japanese truck makers, Hino and Isuzu-confirmed long-held fears that Tokyo’s motor show is no longer the most important in Asia. After all, automakers from over twenty countries braved the recession to attend the Shanghai auto show in April. In Tokyo, only three foreign automakers-Group Lotus and Caterham Cars from Britain and Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen from Germany-could be bothered to show up.

But what of the LFA, which will go on sale in 2010? A long time in the making, it certainly has some dazzling performance stats, including a top speed of 202mph and 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds. Clearly, this is no ordinary Lexus. For all that, I’m slightly baffled by the price (I repeat: $375,000) and the decision to limit sales to 500. In his speech on the floor of the show, Toyoda talked about the need for automobile to serve as dreams and aspirations. Well, the high price and limited availabilty certainly sees to that. Of course, the LFA, alongside the great looking FT-86 sports car concept, will give Lexus and Toyota’s brands a much-need sporty boost. The difference of course is that the FT-86, which goes on sale in 2011 is likely to cost closer to $20,000 and should sell in thousands. Indeed, given that Toyota will lose money again this year, it would also be interest to know more about the economics of the LFA. The price tag is high, but then so is the cost of developing super-fast sports cars. And by limiting sales to 500, one wonders how much Toyota will lose on every sale.

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