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Luxury car sales drag in US: Lexus

DETROIT -- Sales of luxury cars across the United States have not kept pace with non-luxury vehicles but Lexus still expects to hit its target this year, Tim Morrison, vice president of Lexus's U.S. division, said Wednesday.

“What we're seeing is that non-luxury sales have grown faster than luxury sales,” the reverse of the trend in 2010 and 2011 as car sales began to recover from the recession, Morrison said at a briefing on Lexus's new LXl460.

“I don't know why. Maybe people just got tired of waiting to buy a new car,” he said. “Luxury buyers still seem to have concerns about the economy.”

Morrison said Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, did not expect to recover sales leadership in the U.S. luxury segment this year.

Lexus held the first spot for nine consecutive years before sinking into third place behind BMW and Mercedes-Benz in 2011, hit in part by supply-chain problems after the cataclysmic March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

“We never had a stated goal of being number one,” Morrison said.

“It happened because were able to satisfy customers ... I don't think we have a chance of being number one this year anyway,” he added, even though Lexus beat both of its Germanic rivals in total sales in August.

Lexus is introducing a mix of new vehicles this year, ranging from the entry-level luxury GS to the top-line LS. The company expects to reach its sales target of 240,000 for the full year.

The luxury sales slump is focused at the high end of the range, said industry analysts Edmunds.com.

“Surprisingly, the biggest problem for luxury sales is not weakness among entry-level buyers,” Edmunds said Wednesday.

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