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Toyota's ascendancy in the 1970s and 1980s demonstrated to this Japanese automaker that it could take its products into new territories. One segment ripe for the taking was the luxury market. Toyota believed that consumers would likely avoid a luxurious Toyota, but might be drawn to models sold under an all-new brand nameplate.
Lexus was conceived with the U.S. market in mind with Lincoln and Cadillac the intended targets. In Lexus, Toyota was also responding to Honda with its Acura brand and Nissan with Infiniti.
The first two models were a pair of sedans, the LS 400 and ES 250, with both the LS and ES series in production to this day. By 1991, Lexus was already outselling its European competitors, moving ahead of BMW and Mercedes-Benz and within striking distance of Lincoln and Cadillac. An SC sport coupe was also released that year.
In 1993, Lexus expanded its product line to bring forth the GS 300 sedan and three years later the first SUV, the Lexus LX 450 was brought to the market. Throughout the 1990s, Lexus updated its entire product line and in 1998 the Lexus RX, a midsize SUV, was introduced. That model quickly set the benchmark for the segment and remains the best-selling model in the Lexus portfolio.
By the new millennium, Lexus was the top selling luxury car brand in America. Throughout the early years of the 21st century, Lexus continued to update its products. It took Lexus 10 years to sell one million models, but only an additional four years to double that number.
Lexus introduced its first hybrid vehicle, the RX 400h, in 2005. Also that year, the compact IS 250 and IS 350 models went on sale in a bid to capture BMW 3-Series shoppers. Five years later the IS line expanded to include a two-door hardtop convertible, the IS C.
Over the next few years, Lexus introduced hybrid models to its GS and LS lines, and also brought forth a compact HS model. In 2011, an LFA super car was built, with production limited to 500 units.
In 2015, Lexus introduced its RC and RC F sports cars, and increased its SUV portfolio by offering the compact NX, available in gasoline and hybrid editions. The gasoline model is also the first turbocharged Lexus ever.
Besides its Japanese and American rivals, Lexus competes with Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Porsche, Audi, Volvo and BMW. The lower end of the Lexus line can be compared with Buick as well as cross-shopped with cars such as the Toyota Avalon.