Andy Pfeiffenberger is vice president of Lexus Europe – Auto Express caught up with him to talk how the Toyota luxury brand can grow its sales in a market almost completely dominated by diesel. And how there's potentially a small SUV and a sports car waiting in the wings.
What are your priorities for 2012?
The new GS is definitely our priority. We've already seen very strong demand for the new model in terms of sales and orders. We've widened the line-up with a new entry-level GS250 petrol, as well as the top-spec GS450h.
How can you compete in Europe with models like the BMW 520d without a diesel version though?
Well, a lower displacement hybrid will definitely come, and that is definitely driven by Europe. That will be a global car too. We expect to see markets like the US and China move away from currently measuring average CO2 figures, so we see more convergence with Europe.
You've updated the RX450h. What are your hopes for the new SUV?
With the addition of an F Sport model [which gets a sporty bodykit], we will be able to speak more to a wider market, particularly to the male drivers out there. Having a Sport mode and making tweaks to the suspension will help too.
Is there a feeling that you need to make your cars more enjoyable to drive, as Toyota is doing?
We're happy with the way our cars offer incredible refinement, but there's no reason why they can't be more engaging too.
The LF-LC sports car concept seems to have been well received. Are you likely to offer a rival to the Jaguar XK and Mercedes SL?
Let me say this. We have history in the sector [the SC430] and although we have no firm plans I believe there is room in the range for such a product.
What about a small Range Rover Evoque-sized SUV? That seems to be another gap in the range that could be a huge seller worldwide.
It's true, we have been very slow to come to the market with a downsized SUV. This is an area of our line-up you will see developed in the next few years.
Lexus is famous for hybrid, but are you looking at plug-ins and range-extenders too?
We started with hybrid but now plug-in is clearly the next step. We have the modular technology that will allow us to move along this path. Plug-in is the next step – and then it will be fuel cells.