Toyota chose a swerving Formula One racing course
to show its new luxury Lexus sportscar Thursday, to make sure
reporters got the message the new IS F model is about revved up
engine muscle and the thrill of nimble handling.
Toyota Motor Corp. is planning to sell 7,000 Lexus IS F cars
globally next year, about 5,000 or 6,000 in the U.S., 500 in Japan
and the rest in Europe.
The US$67,000 sportscar, which can hit speeds of 300 kilometres
per hour, rolls out Dec. 25 in Japan, and in February or March in
the U.S., Toyota executive Takeshi Yoshida said.
Reporters were given helmets before getting into the IS F. Then
professional drivers took reporters for two laps lasting just a few
minutes on the Fuji Speedway race course, reaching 240 kilometres
per hour at one point.
As the sportscar careened to turn sharp corners, reporters swayed
in their seats, holding tight, hearing the engine growl at high
speeds and sensing the pavement sped by.
Executive vice-president Akio Toyoda, the usually suit-clad
grandson of the Japanese automaker's founder, appeared in a black
racing outfit and was one of the test drivers for the event.
Toyoda, who oversees Japanese sales, acknowledged the Lexus needs
time to grow into a ``premium brand'' in Japan, where the nameplate
was introduced just three years ago.
``The Lexus must have the emotional factor of being exciting to
drive,'' he said.
The IS F is a more powerful version of the Lexus IS, which is
already on sale. The letter ``F'' added at the end of the IS F
stands for ``fun'' as well as Fuji Speedway, said Toyoda.
Toyota officials said the new Lexus measures up in acceleration
and other performance to popular German imports.