Lexus's $350,000 Sports Car

The Wall Street Journal

In an effort to create exclusivity, buyers of Lexus's LFA "supercar" must be approved by the brand; those who don't plan to flaunt the car need not apply

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AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye
The LFA on display at the Tokyo Motor Show in October.

The $350,000 Lexus LFA was one of the most buzz-generating vehicles at the ultra-luxury "Gallery" exhibit during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week. Coined the "two-seat supercar" by Lexus, the vehicle sits at the top of Lexus's "F" portfolio, its line of high-end sports performance vehicles.

But simply having the $350,000 to buy one of the 500 LFAs Lexus plans to produce won't be enough: Buyers must be tapped by the company to be owners. People selected to purchase the car will be based on factors such as the other cars they own, where they live, and how often and where they drive. Potential buyers must apply through an authorized Lexus distributor.

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Lexus first introduced the LFA as a concept car at the 2005 Detroit auto show. LFA deliveries will start in early 2011, and only 20 of the hand-built cars will be produced each month, up to the maximum quantity of 500. Production starts in December at Toyota's Motomachi plant in Japan, and buyers can customize their cars with various colors and wheel designs, among other options.

On the road, the LFA will be able to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds with a top speed of 202 mph, thanks in part to its 10 cylinder, 552-horsepower engine. The car is also made of strong yet lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, which makes it about 220 pounds lighter than an equivalent aluminum design.

But in the end, the car's success may hinge on its exclusive ordering process and scarcity -- a tactic meant to boost the carmaker's image with the monied ultra-luxury set. While Lexus has built a respected reputation in the mainstream luxury market, the company has yet to successfully penetrate the ultra-luxury and performance car sector and compete with brands like Porsche and Lamborghini.

"We want people who will drive the car, who will be seen in the car," said Paul Williamson, national manager at Lexus College, Toyota's dealer training school. "We want it to be seen on the right roads, in front of the right restaurants and not just being enjoyed by one individual in their private garage."

Mr. Williamson said Lexus expects to sell about a third of the 500 vehicles in the United States.

Write to Lee Hawkins at lee.hawkins@wsj.com

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