In light of an increasingly strong Yen and an increasingly weakened U.S. dollar, Japanese automakers continue to find ways to build vehicles sold in North America in North America, allowing them to reduce costs and improve profit margins. Lexus is apparently no exception, as new reports suggest the brand is considering building its ES sedan somewhere in Canada, Mexico, or the U.S.
Currently, all Lexus ES models are built in Kyushu, Japan, including cars sold in North America. That may soon change: according WardsAuto, Toyota has confirmed that it is looking into sourcing more models from its facilities in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, but has yet to indicate which models it would build here. Dealers, however, appear to be chomping at the bit to have the ES built stateside.
“One of the requests we’ve had from our dealer council is to figure out a way to get the ES – or one of our other volume vehicles – here just to blunt the (negative effects of) currency exchange,” Tim Morrison, vice president-sales and dealer development for Lexus, told Wards. “We’re not there yet, but I can tell you it’s coming.” Morrison also added there currently isn’t any excess capacity at any of Toyota’s North American plants, and that the Japanese plants can produce enough ES sedans to satisfy global demand for the car. By far, the United States represents the biggest chunk of that pie, as nearly half of all ES models built are sold in the U.S.
According to Wards, Lexus is looking to target around 5000 ES sales a month in the U.S. between the V-6-powered ES 350 and the hybrid ES 300h; that totals to about 60,000 sales per year or about 20,000 more ES sedans moved in 2011. Last year, the ES accounted for almost a quarter of the brand’s sales as it was the number-two seller behind the RX. Morrison told Wards that the brand is aiming for 250,000 total sales for this year.
The 2013 ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 268 hp and 248 lb-ft and paired with a six-speed automatic, while the 2013 ES 300h uses an electric motor paired to a 2.5-liter I-4 and a continuously variable transmission with a net output of 200 hp. The new ES will begin appearing in dealerships this summer, with full availability starting in the fall.
If ES assembly is ported to North America, it would become the second Lexus model built here, as only the RX 350 crossover is presently manufactured in North America. Toyota-branded products built here are far more plentiful: the list includes the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Venza, Corolla, Tundra, Tacoma, Sequoia, Sienna, and Highlander, along with various engines and powertrain components.