This Week On Car Clinic: The Mindset Of A Lexus Buyer

Dear JM Baraza,

I am also a big fan of yours. I really enjoy reading your informative articles which have a tint

of humor in them. I only buy the Wednesday paper just to read your pieces, which by the way should be increased from 2 – 4 pages. I have learnt a lot on cars through them. I no longer consider myself a novice in this area. My only regret is that I have missed a couple of your articles and fear asking questions which you have already tackled. Kindly advise on where/ which site we can find the previous articles or if you have online publications.

Keep up the good work!

Kev.

I hope the powers-that-be upstairs are reading this. An increase in page occupancy would be welcome (I can tell longer stories and maybe put up more pictures!), more so if it comes with a corresponding increase in take-home pay (I can afford longer and more elaborate road tests!).

You may have missed one or two previous write-ups, but don’t be alarmed. There is an archive of it somewhere on the internet. In fact just such a repository exists for more recent material (www.motoringpressagency.com) which has the added benefit of featuring a motorcycle-loving colleague who I refer to as a “staff writer”. Some of the articles in it too are the raw, original unedited versions of what I submitted for publishing. Some of them have never been published. There are videos also (not many, though…)

 

Hello Mr Baraza,

I’ve had this question on my mind for a long time and i was hoping you could answer it for me. I recently saw a few car dealers on Facebook selling the lexus LX 570 for 25 million shillings while Toyota landcruisers v8 were roughly 12 million shillings. So i decided to do some research on both vehicles and i learned they are basically the same car, according to their specs and further more the most expensive lexus cost 90,000 dollars according to their website. So what i was hoping you would explain is what could be the reason for the almost 100% price difference yet they are the same car. I’m a big fan of the car clinic, keep up the good work.

Clinton

Hello Clinton, and welcome to what is a very contentious issue: the pricing of Toyota and its various products and sub-products.

The big-boy Landcruiser has been Toyota’s flagship for many years, serving up equal doses of unbeatable reliability, everyday practicality, off-the-chart off road mettle and sensible pricing. Things changed a little when the 200 Series came around: unfortunately, Toyota had been paying too much attention to American rap videos and they noticed two things in them: a Cadillac Escalade and a Range Rover Vogue.

So what did they do? They first transformed their overachieving off-roader into an Escalade by making an already large vehicle even bigger and heavier and flashier and thirstier and full of electronic nonsense no one really needs. This seriously compromised its previous mud-plugging talents – though admittedly the 200 is still very capable, just not as capable as the old 80 or 105 – but who cares? Nobody takes offroading seriously any more. It seems like they wanted to get a Toyota into a rap video come what may and the idea of creating a whole new Toyota model for this must have been met with threats of mutiny from the bean counters in the reinforced quake-proof basement at Toyota City (such a place does exist, just so you know), so they decided the Landcruiser will just have to serve the purpose. Instead what happened was the car was bought by members of parliament and possibly drug dealers: people who have no business going off-road unless they are seeking votes or escaping from the authorities, oftentimes both. In America, which is the sole reason the 200 Series transformed into what it is in the first place, home-making soccer-mom dentists’ wives were the target market because over there politicians and drug dealers ride Cadillacs, not Toyotas.

There was still the sweet Range Rover action to get in on and the burgeoning Mercedes-Benz GL market to interfere with, just in case some dentist’s wives were unswayed by the brightwork now festooning the Landcruiser’s sheet metal… also because politicians locally seemed to have bottomless pockets and were buying them by the boatload. How to compete with a Range Rover? Simple. Turn up the wick on the price index. Charge it like the money is going out of fashion, which is why the latest URJ202 (if they at all sell it) or VDJ202 now costs an eye-watering 22 million shillings from Toyota Kenya. That price is difficult to justify, especially considering this same vehicle cost about 14 million shillings before the facelift. That is one massively expensive grille-swap if I ever saw one.

Now, Lexus. In the highly discriminative mind of the American car buyer as manifest in their political choices, Toyota is a Japanese company selling cheap, bottom-feeding slop for The Great Unwashed like the Tercel and the Corolla. As a dentist’s wife with a combined annual income well north of half a million dollars, one cannot be seen to drive a vehicle from the same brand that terrorists, freedom fighters and insurgents believe in and Jesse Pinkman of ‘Breaking Bad’ selected as his first car. That is not a good look. There are also people who remember the Second World War and Pearl Harbor and want nothing to do with Japan. But Toyotas are damn reliable and incredibly well built. So how to have a Toyota without actually having a Toyota? Enter Lexus.

Even the name sounds expensive and lunar. Lexus… evokes images of extraterrestrial or astrological bodies; like the name of a star, or a galaxy or the thirteenth sign of the zodiac. Take my money now, before I think about what I’m doing! Originally highly specced and rebadged top-rung Toyotas, Lexus now has its own discrete-from-Toyota vehicle models in the lineup (with one or two Toyota twins still clinging on to the L badge); vehicles that are tacky, ostentatious and a travesty against economic sense and good taste – the perfect criteria for new money. Look at the RC-F and tell me I’m wrong.

With the current 200 Series Landcruiser, they took an already compromised vehicle and hobbled it further by adding more flash (extra bodywork and low profile tyres) and more electricity (things I’ve never heard of like BSM and RCTA, whatever those are) to create the LX570. They then imbued it with a face that looks simultaneously threatening and disapproving and slapped a $97,000 price tag on it then sold it to high-flying, uber-rich snobs who are lapping it up like it is the fountain of youth. To this $97,000, convert it into Kenya shillings; add the various import taxes and dealer markups at every single step between the Lexus factory and the end user to get your 25 million. Very easy arithmetic. The car is targeted at hardcore capitalists, so expect to pay capitalist money to get one. With an astrological name comes an astronomical price.

You want to know what is a good deal? A 100 Series. Capable and comely along with all those other aforementioned Toyota virtues, used examples are going for as low as 2 million shillings; maybe 3.5 on the upper side: the same price you’d pay for a used Prado; and yes, this also applies to the Lexus version, the LX470. What are you waiting for?

Anecdote: back in 2012 Toyota Kenya had a Camry that they sold for $95,000. Yes, you read that right: a car that slots below the Mercedes-Benz C Class cost more than an E Class, and inquiries as to why were met with stony silence. Is it any surprise then that the J150 costs 10 million bob and the J202 more than twice that much?

The answer to your question is simple: BECAUSE THEY CAN

 

Hello Mr Baraza,

I’m a huge fan of you car clinic article. It has helped me learn a lot about the specifics of cars, keep up the good work. To my question, after you mentioned the 2017 Mercedes Benz e class i was very intrigued so i wanted to know if they have started selling in kenya and if they are, will you give an in-depth review of the car? Thank and again, keep up the good work.

Clinton

Hello Clinton.

We seem to have a number of Clintons today, huh? Anyway: yes, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse is on sale in Kenya currently. You can avail yourself of an entry-level E200 at about €90,000 if I recall correctly. Later on, DT Dobie will provide the E250 and the E300, after which they will introduce the AMG-lite E43. Pricing on these unintroduced models is still unspecified as we speak, but expect the range to vary between 90k for the E200 and 150k for the AMG (*Note: this is conjecture on my part and in no way reflects the actual pricing when the 250, 300 and 43 come out).

An in-depth review will definitely be in the books since they promised me a test drive in the foreseeable future. I am particularly looking forward to its self-driving abilities; it is not fully autonomous but it does have some level of Asimov-esque, droid-like sentience which I am deeply curious about.

Happy holidays everybody, and see you next year!

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