Selling the Lexus brand in the backyard of BMW, Audi and Mercedes is tough enough. But promoting the Japanese brand's LFA sports car to an elite European clique accustomed to Porsche and Ferrari must be a hopeless cause, right?
Actually, the pitch has been easier than expected.
Parent Toyota already has booked orders and taken down payments for all 500 of the $375,000 sports cars it plans to build over the model's life.
Lexus isn't giving details of orders by region. But it says that a third of the orders from Europe were placed in Germany. Lexus brought eight of those buyers to this year's Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race in Germany to wine and dine them as two LFAs competed at the legendary circuit. Each buyer already had plunked down 100,000 euros ($125,715).
The future LFA owners said they were looking for a different car that exudes performance and prestige without being flashy or overwrought. Europeans also appreciate the doting customer service offered by Lexus, a refreshing contrast to the haughty elitism of rival brands.
One buyer, a manufacturing engineer who declined to be identified, compared the LFA to owning a rare, ultraexpensive mechanical wristwatch. "To most people, it's an unknown quantity," he said. "But true aficionados know its value."
Manfred Sattler, the owner of a software company and an auto racing team, picked the LFA primarily because it is different. As a German with a 500-hp Hummer H2 and two Dodge Vipers in his garage, he has an eye for the unorthodox.
Said Sattler: "About 20 years ago, I said I'd never drive a German."