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Last week, Lexus General Manager Denny Clements made some interesting comments on the Lexus IS at two different venues: the <B>Morgan Stanley Global Automotive Conference</B>, held in New York on Wednesday, April 7, and, the next day, at the <B>Lexus LF-C Concept Sports Car Press Conference</B> at the New York Auto Show.<P>

Arguably the most significant of his comments is this one from the latter venue: "On the horizon...and following the launch of the new GS by about six months, will be the debut of the next-generation Lexus IS". This of course, begs the question: When does the third-generation GS actually go on sale? Surprisingly, I haven't found any published reports from any of the automotive media that actually answers this question.<P>

One clue, however, may be found in Lexus' launch of the GX470 SUV. It premiered in January 2002 at the Detroit Auto Show, but didn't go on sale until almost exactly one year later, on January 2003. If this pattern holds true for the third-generation GS, we could be seeing the 2006 second-generation IS around July 2005.<P>

Among Mr. Clements' IS-related comments from the Morgan Stanley Global Automotive Conference are the following:<P>

"The Lexus way is to add features, improve performance, and generally try to anticipate what the customer will want next, remaining within our value ranges.

And that's why, tomorrow, we'll unwrap a concept vehicle that will give IS owners more choices within this sport/luxury class. This is our near-luxury entry point -- the market that will produce lifetime loyalists for the Lexus lineup.

Nearly 90 percent of IS buyers are first-time Lexus owners. The median age of IS buyers is 29, the lowest in the segment, and well below the 39-year-old average of its nearest competitor. In fact, the IS has done a better job of meeting the needs of young buyers than any other model in this segment.

Lexus IS competes directly with the BMW 3 series, which, with 15 variants accounts for 10,000 units per month...half that company's sales. Today, IS has only 2 models.

While we never intended for IS to represent such a large percentage of our volume, clearly additional body configurations...such as a coupe and convertible would offers Lexus the opportunity to significantly increase today's volume of approximately 1,000 units per month.

For the full text of Denny Clements' comments at the Morgan Stanley Global Automotive Conference, click <A HREF="">here.</A>

Mr. Clements' comments at the LF-C press conference include the following remarks:

On the horizon...and following the launch of the new GS by about six months, will be the debut of the next-generation Lexus IS. Since the IS 300 debuted in 2000, Lexus has had a formidable...two-vehicle strategy in the near-luxury segment. The ES 330...<UL>
<LI>the number-one-selling entry-level luxury car...
<LI>anchors the "comfort luxury" end of the spectrum...
<LI>allowing IS to run in the "performance luxury" subset.
</UL>This provides a no-compromise solution in this very competitive segment. It's no secret that the IS competes head-to-head with the BMW 3-Series. However, fielding a 4-door sedan and a Sportcross wagon...against 15 separate 3-series variants...has proved to be quite a challenge.

For the next IS-series to be a true force in the luxury-performance will need to offer more models...more performance...and most importantly, more style. The phrase "aspirational sport" may not be a familiar term,...but it carries significant weight with the people at Lexus assigned to develop the next IS.

It should probably come as no surprise...that the current IS has the lowest age demographic of any vehicle in our line-up. In fact, a mere 29-years-old...<UL>
<LI>it's by-far, the lowest age-demographic in the near-luxury segment...
<LI>and is actually lower than any Toyota or Scion-brand model.
</UL>Because they are young, aspirational-sport-buyers are not bound by tradition.<UL>
<LI>Most are first-time Lexus buyers.
<LI>More still are first-time luxury buyers.</UL>
They are drawn to that which is different and a little on-edge. They actively seek a car that makes a statement about themselves...<UL>
<LI>anticipates their needs
<LI>and delivers subtle surprises along the way.
</UL>We...and our competitors...have known for quite some time...that if Lexus ever prioritized styling and performance...the way it has product quality and technology...the luxury-car playing field would change...once again.

Lexus is changing. The playing field is changing. And the definition of what a luxury automobile must changing.

For the complete Lexus LF-C Concept Sports Car Press Conference, including comments by Kevin Hunter, Vice President, Design and Studio Activities at CALTY Design Research, click <A HREF="">here.</A>
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