When Lexus introduced their luxury minivan – the LM 350 – in the Philippine market, we were doubtful it would sell well.
Given the state of the economy during its launch at the height of the pandemic as well as the departure of -um- many potential customers back across the West Philippine Sea, we didn't think it would be a top seller for the brand. And given that the Alphard is there under the Toyota brand, perhaps customers would have difficulty justifying the cost of the LM; a vehicle that is essentially a more upmarket version of the Toyota.
Boy, were we proven wrong.
According to the official sales data of Lexus Philippines, they were able to sell 169 units when they introduced the lavish LM 350 in 2020. That may seem like a tiny number, but consider this: the entry price for the LM 350 7-seater is PHP 5.408 million. And if it's the 4-seater version that you want -a veritable limo-fied Alphard- then that goes all the way up to PHP 9.088 million.
But they're not done yet: the 169 units were just for 2020. From January 2021 to October 2021, Lexus has already released 186 units of the LM 350. That figure actually makes it their best selling model for that period so far, outselling the many volume models in their line up. Yes, the LM outsold the RX which has been a solid best seller of Lexus in the Philippines.
If there was any doubt that the Philippines is a van country, then this has to really put all of that to bed. The Philippine market is one of the biggest markets for vans, as proven by the success of the Toyota Alphard as well as the Toyota Hiace. Actually, the Philippines is the biggest market for the Hiace outside of Toyota's home market: Japan. That's why they chose to hold the world premiere of the new generation Hiace here in 2019, much in the same way that they premiered the Land Cruiser 300 in the biggest market: the Middle East.
Here's the interesting bit though: when they launched it, there was a 6 to 12 month queue for the LM. And given that there are external factors like work stoppages abroad and the parts shortage, our gut tells us that they could have sold so much more.
The customer base for the LM was really immune to the economic effects of the pandemic. In fact, many luxury automakers registered very strong sales in 2020 as many customers in the segment that would have normally traveled abroad instead opted to spend their money on new luxury automobiles, exotic sports cars, and sport bikes.