- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The 2006 Lexus IS should attract more customers than the current version has done.

Lexus expects to reach a broader audience and is especially aiming at customers who are interested in the BMW 3-Series.

The new IS 250/IS 350 has to do the job and will be supported by an extensive advertising campaign that uses the Internet, television and print.

During a press event in Dearborn last week, Deborah Meyer, vice president of Lexus Marketing, said that Lexus wants to increase yearly sales of the IS to 40,000, up more than 300 percent from 2004 and helping Lexus to reach the 300,000 mark next year.

In Europe, Lexus will go for a dramatically higher market share with the addition of a diesel version.

About half of the vehicles sold in the so called “business class” there have a diesel engine.

Together with the IS 250, the IS 220d will be available right from the market introduction in the beginning of 2006.

In North America, the new IS model will go on sale in October. It is the third new vehicle that Lexus has introduced this year, following the GX 400h and the 2006 GS.

The current model was introduced five years ago as a sporty and affordable model in its segment but it was not really a challenge to the benchmark in the entry luxury sport sedan segment, the BMW 3-Series.

It did indeed draw some young and hip buyers that were new Lexus customers.

The IS customers have an average age of 29 years, the youngest in the industry until Toyota’s youth division, Scion, came up with its tC coupe, which broke the record with an average age of 25 years.

With the new model, Lexus certainly has ambitious plans.

But taking into account the success of the new GS, of which some 19,000 were sold since its introduction (nearly 400 percent more than the old GS did in the same period in 2004), it does not seam impossible for the IS to follow its larger brother.

The rear-drive IS is all new, shares the same family looks, is built on the solid, shortened platform of the GS and has the same architecture of the suspension.

At 107.5 inches, the wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer than the outgoing IS 300, whereas the overall length grew 3.5 inches to 180.1 inches and 3.0 inches were added to the width, now 70.9 inches.

This is mainly beneficial for the rear passengers, although it is still a bit tight there for taller people.

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