The 2012 Lexus LFA video preview

The 2012 Lexus LFA video preview

Lexus 1992-2000 SC sport coupes, were not the stuff of enthusiast dreams. But now the luxury marquee aims to liven up its image in a major way with the 2012 Lexus LFA. Amazingly for a brand with no prior experience in high-performance sports cars, this new V10-powered two-passenger looks to be a serious challenger to the Ferrari 599 GTB, Lamborghini Gallardo, and, perhaps most tellingly, the GT-R from arch rival Nissan. That’s just as well, as the LFA has been a long time coming, announced after nearly five years of public hemming-and-hawing, three concept teasers, and disappointing finishes in a major auto race two years running. In fact, this may be the longest new-model “introduction” in automotive history.

the rollout is still going on. Though the showroom-ready LFA made its world debut at the October 2009 Tokyo Auto Show, it’s a scheduled headliner at the SEMA aftermarket-industry trade show in November and the Los Angeles Auto Show a month later. It’s then due to appear in 2010 at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, the Chicago and Dallas Auto Shows, and the New York International Auto Show before “production” begins in December. The first cars are to be delivered in early 2011 as 2012 models.

Toyota isn’t saying how much it’s spent on the 2012 Lexus LFA, but it’s gotta be a pile, judging by the long wait and high-tech design. And now that the company is suffering major losses in the Great Recession and publicly wringing its hands about the future, you can bet it wants the LFA to pay off as a sales-boosting “halo car” for other Lexus models--particularly the sporty high-margin F-marque line, which so far consists of a single V8-powered IS premium-compact sedan. The LFA itself will lose money, even at a projected $375,000 a pop, partly because production is being deliberately capped at 500 units as another way to burnish the images of both car and brand.

Toyota spent so much money and time on so few cars Because, in truth, the 2012 Lexus LFA is one of those corporate vanity projects that had to be completed once word leaked out, lest the company lose credibility with the press and public.

all started back in 2000. As a local Toyota PR man explained to Britain’s CAR magazine: “The idea, initially, was for Toyota to compete in Formula One [Grand Prix racing], win the world championship, then sell a V10, Lexus-badged supercar. They used V10s in F1 then, and Ford had used its Jaguar brand too, so upmarket brands were becoming associated with the sport, and Lexus made sense.” Trouble was, Toyota never came close to a winning F1 season and the V10 formula was soon abandoned.

Despite that, the LFA plowed ahead for several reasons. For one thing, it had two key executive champions. One was motorsports lover Akio Toyoda, the now 53-year-old grandson of the firm’s founder, who took over as Toyota Motor Corporation president in early 2009. The other advocate was Haruhiko Tanahashi, who’s had a hand in developing what few truly sporting models Toyota has offered since he joined the company as a chassis engineer in 1978. He was ultimately named LFA project leader.

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