In an article headlined, “Crowded Market Befuddles Buyers,” Melinda Grenier Guiles of the Wall Street Journal wrote, “The product proliferation—and rising prices—render the term ‘luxury car’ almost meaningless.” Adding more confusion, Mazda was rumored to be ready to announce a new luxury car division code-named “Pegasus.”
The ES250 was adding to the confusion. But now that we were selling through the backlog of cloth interior cars, it was selling much better. Even the media was beginning to say good things about the car. Car and Driver magazine admitted the ES250 was like “playing second fiddle to a Stradivarius.” Car and Driver went on to say, “Apart from its slight identity crisis, the ES250 is a very inviting car. A little sedan with a light and polite feel.”
The near-luxury market was down, and it would be more than a year before the new ES300 would be ready. The ES300 was a completely redesigned version of the ES250, sharing styling cues with the LS400 and having no similarities to the Toyota Camry or Vista. It was to be five inches longer and three inches wider for a sporty feel. It would have upgraded engine performance from 156HP to 185HP with a three-liter V-6. Fuel mileage would remain a competitive 25 MPG.
The interior would have improved leg, head, and shoulder room, an eight-speaker audio system, air bags, and the same LED meter display on the dash as the LS400. It would have California walnut interior trim with premium leather seats. The noise reduction efforts made in the LS400 would be included in the new ES300.
The clinics conducted with 200 potential customers on the early models were encouraging. We tested against the Mercedes 190, the Acura Legend, the Nissan Maxima, and the Buick Park Avenue. We did not test against the Infiniti G20 because we determined it would be uncompetitive against the new ES300. At the beginning of the clinic, we did not put the Lexus name on the car. Without badging and price, the ES300 came in second to the Buick Park Avenue. After revealing badging and price, the ES300 shot to number one. The Buick remained a close second, with the Legend and Maxima tied for third and the Mercedes falling to last.
The excitement for the new ES300 was building. We were planning to introduce the new ES300 to the dealers at the second Lexus National Dealer Meeting in Japan in early 1991.
“Strategic planning is the key to warfare; to win, you need a lot of good counsel.” Proverbs 24:6 (MSG)
The ES300 would be a welcome addition to the Lexus line-up in 1991. A new SC400 was to be introduced in 1991. The coupe was in development at Toyota’s Calty Design Studio in Newport Beach, California. The Lexus LS400 had been criticized as being too conservative. The new coupe would be revolutionary.
(To be continued in “The New SC400 Coupe”)