Lexus expects Tesla Model S exiles to return

Japanese luxury marque Lexus is suffering at the hands of new kid Tesla Motors, with sales of its flagship sedan declining. Toyota’s sumptuous sibling isn’t panicking yet, however.

Just 2,149 examples of the Mercedes S-Class-rivaling Lexus LS sedan, which starts at a stout $72,140, were sold through May. Tesla, on the other hand, delivered 6,437 pure electric Model S’ during the first quarter of this year alone.

Lexus is putting on a brave face, however.. “We don’t feel it’s a problem with the car,” the company’s vice-president marketing, Brian Smith, told Wards Auto. “Many of the buyers in that segment want what’s new and they’re trying it.”

A mutual competitor for both models is the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a car whose rave reviews and abundance of class-leading attributes have earned it massive early sales. Smith believes brand loyalty comes into play with a car like the Mercedes. The same can’t be said for Tesla, whose sales are solely of the ‘conquest’ variety.

“They’ll probably come back,” he says. “I think the question remains to be seen how many people will buy a second Tesla.”

The answer to that question may be something Lexus doesn’t want to hear. A Consumer Reports survey of 600 Model S owners in November last year resulted in a 99 percent satisfaction rating – higher than any other car.

The Tesla’s innovative design, outstanding performance, surprising practicality and low costs, in particular, contributed to its unbeatable score.

Current owners may well have good reason to invest in a second Tesla in the near future, too. The Model X SUV is due to arrive in early next year, with four-wheel drive as standard and many of the strengths that make the Model S a formidable competitor.

Should the new car take a toll on sales of Lexus’ popular RX SUV models – 103,923 of which were sold last year – rather than the niche LS, then Smith will have a real problem on his hands.