Lexus of North Hills throws party for IS launch

by: Allan K. Smith Updated:

IS 350

PITTSBURGH - Lexus of North Hills held a gathering at its showroom to showcase the new IS series of sport sedans.

The 2014 version of the IS 250 and IS 350 were both rated above the BMW 335i, the car that has been leading the sport sedan market for the past 20 years, said Lexus of North Hills GM Kevin Mullen.

“So now we not only have performance, but we also have the reliability and performance that Lexus customers are used to,” Mullen said.

The issue that Mullen has had to deal with is that it’s always been difficult for Lexus to attract the younger buyer.

“Our challenge has been that the average age of the Lexus buyer is 55,” Mullen said. “We need to get younger people into the brand early and have them migrate through the product line. We’re confident the IS 350 will do so.”

With that in mind, Mullen hoped for a large turnout at the launch event, which included catered food and music.

The 2014 IS series includes 70 changes from the 2013 model, Mullen said. Primarily, these changes involve communication features on the car, which now includes iHeart Radio, Pandora, a new navigation system as well as voice commands.

In addition, the car has a different suspension, and the engines range from 210 horsepower to 306 horsepower. The price of the car starts around $36,000 and goes up to $50,000.

Many of these new features are geared at targeting a younger audience, Mullen said.

“We’re pretty excited about what there is to offer,” Mullen said. “When you think of BMW, 85 to 90 percent of what they sell is the 3 series and they own that market segment. It’s a good car. However, we feel that we can be less expensive to maintain, more reliable and also have the same performance characteristics.”

The IS series is intended to show off the brand Lexus was made to appear as.

 “Akio Toyoda was a race car driver, so he wanted the image of Lexus to be a lot more edgy and sporty looking,” Mullen said. “So this is our second attempt at that, we think it’s going to work out real well for us.”

Forty-seven percent of the vehicles Mullen sells are the RX series, with 25 percent being the ES models. The IS has only made up 5 percent of sales in the past.

“What we’re looking to do is sell 20 to 25 percent of our model line IS’s, which is a dramatic change,” Mullen said. “If I can keep up the sales of RX’s and ES’s and sell an additional 10 to 15 IS’s a month, it’s going to be a good year.”