Lexus starts producing ES sedan in Japan despite Yen risks

Article by Anita Panait, on July 6, 2012

Toyota Motor Corp. has started building its revamped Lexus ES sedan in Japan, taking on the challenge of running more costly factories at its home country to cope with demand in the United States and China. Toyota is aiming to achieve an annual production figure of around 3 million vehicles in Japan, which is almost triple the amount that its local rivals Nissan Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. produce.

It also represents around 40 percent of the cars and trucks that Toyota builds globally. The only Lexus model that Toyota produces outside Japan is the Lexus RX sport-utility vehicle, which is being built in Ontario, Canada.

Japanese car manufacturers are usually averse to producing at its home turf in order to prevent the strong yen to continue eating up their profits on imports. Toyota’s strategy with Lexus leaves the brand exposed to the effects of the strong yen.

Toyota officials, however, are confident that the made-in-Japan strategy would pay off even at current yen levels. Kazuo Ohara, executive vice president of Lexus International, said that they have no plans to endure the effects of the Yen to a point that the unit’s business would not function.

Ohara remarked that for cars like the Lexus ES, the current costs levels will allow the brand to continue producing even if the exchange rate is 80 Japanese Yen to a US Dollar.

Ohara reiterated that Lexus’ policy is to protect manufacturing in Japan “as much as possible for as long as possible.” Masatoshi Nishimoto, the manager of Japan and Korea vehicle forecast at IHS Automotive, quipped that Toyota, at some point, may have to stop production abroad to compete on the cost front, just like rival Nissan.

Looking at how the interior of the new Lexus ES has been designed, one immediate observation is the visibility and sightlines have been improved. Meanwhile the controls look to have a more logical positioning with the cabin also showing the use of materials that have excellent levels of craftsmanship. The interior in general has a fresh look and was planned to give occupants both a sense of security and an open feel.

Talking about openness, the passenger cabin was redesigned to allow for more space, particularly for the legroom and the knee room for those sitting in the rear. Legroom is longer by 4.1 inches with the knee room now larger by 2.8 inches. Even the headroom in the rear was increased, by 0.8 inches. Improving the comfort of the rear passengers further is the addition of extra foot room placed under the front seats.

The additional space in the interior clearly means that the proportions have been changed. Thus, while the wheelbase is longer by 1.8 inches, the overall length received only a 1 inch increase. This meant that the overhangs were now shorter. In order have a more unique proportion, the four corners have been pulled inward to the vehicle’s wheels arches tightly.

Further, the ES also shows a profile that is lower with the use of styling lines starting from the front going to the rear. Going to the front, it has the unique spindle grille which marks the new design of the ES. Then there is the “L” design theme that can be seen in the daytime running lights, which use LED, and the combination lamps in the rear. On the lower region of the bumper fascia in the front, one can clearly see that the fog lamps have been integrated to it.

On the rear section, specifically for the Lexus ES350, there is the sports dual exhaust pipes. On the ES300h though, the design of the rear section is exclusive to this version and it comes integrated with a spoiler and a hidden exhaust. Exclusive to the ES300h as well are the alloy 17-inch wheels and the distinct blue badge.

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