For a marathon you need staying power - even if you don't use muscle power, but rather powerful engines.
Nobody knows this better than Akio Toyoda.
As the head of the Japanese car giant Toyota, he has been running his luxury offshoot Lexus for 30 years against a bulwark that is difficult to crack: While Toyota itself is one of the most successful brands in the world and is not ahead of VW or BMW or Mercedes has to hide, the fine daughter is struggling with the German triad of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, at least in Europe.
And the Japanese are not alone in this.
After all, in addition to Lexus, half a dozen other brands are doing their best in the middle and upper class and are proving with great persistence that all good things are not just three.
And while some of them throw in the towel at some point, other competitors are warming up again.
It is true that the cumulative market share of the importers is smaller than that of just one of the three premium suppliers from the south of Germany.
And the boom in off-road vehicles has changed that just as little as the slow-onset run on the electric car, even if at least Tesla has achieved a certain degree of visibility on the road and has even overtaken some of the top dogs in terms of image.
But the import models are a welcome alternative for many customers in the monotony of company fleets.
Above all, free spirits and individualists, creative people and lateral thinkers will find a comparatively large selection now if they let their gaze wander just a little further.
Developed for the competition in the upper house
The offer ranges from companies with a long tradition such as Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Jaguar or Volvo to strategically created brands such as Lexus and recently also DS.
Because while the former have grown over the decades and matured with their role models, the latter were specially launched for the race in the House of Lords.
It was not for nothing that Toyota took three years to come up with a name at Lexus and, in addition to an army of developers, employed at least as many marketing experts.
Here, as there, it is primarily sedans and SUVs that are vying for the favor of business people and company drivers.
And electromobility has already found its way into the program of many importers.
In the middle class, for example, the Audi A4 and A6, BMW three and five and Mercedes C and E-Class models such as the Guilia from Alfa Romeo, the Ghibli from Maserati, the S60 from Volvo or the XF and XE from Jaguar as well the IS and the ES from Lexus.
And when it comes to the alternative to the true luxury liners at the upper end of the model range, the Maserati Quattroporte, Jaguar XJ, Volvo S90 and, above all, the Lexus LS are in competition with the A8, Sevens and S-Class.
The brand DS, with which the French finally want to move up to the top automotive league again, is starting the race for frequent and company drivers.
Unsealed around ten years ago in the spirit of the legendary DS21 from Citroen and previously specialized in small and off-road vehicles, the nearly five-meter-long DS9 is now supposed to bring a lot of Parisian chic to the parking lots of the executives.
Parisian chic: the DS9 electric car
Not everyone gets there in this race
In addition to these classic sedans, there are plenty of CrossOvers and SUVs in the upper house, just like with the volume brands: Jaguar relies on E- and F-Pace and the fully electric i-Pace, Maserati on the Levante, Alfa Romeo on the Stelvio, and Volvo The XC40, the XC60 and the XC90, which can also be supplied with a battery drive on request, and Lexus also has three irons in the fire with the UX, NX and RX, all of which are available with hybrid drives and, with the UX, with all-electric drives.
Q60 is a mid-range coupe from the Japanese manufacturer Infiniti
As with a real marathon, however, not everyone reaches their destination in this race: Infiniti, Nissan's noble sister, stopped its involvement at least in Europe after a good ten years at the end of the last decade and withdrew from the market.
However, the gap in the starting field does not remain vacant for long.
Instead of the Japanese, a brand from Korea will take the place of Genesis this year.
Noble product from Korea: The Genesis GV70 electric car
At home as the finest offspring of the Hyundai and Kia empire, it is already firmly established on the streets and now also represented in the USA and China, the Koreans now want to know about it here too.
They mainly rely on the G70 sedan and the GV70 off-road vehicle, which are located in the upper middle class and compete against the BMW 3 Series and x3.
In the second step, two 80s and later maybe even a G90 sedan will follow, which has long been crowning the vehicle fleet in Korea as a patriotic answer to the S-Class.
Genesis has prepared itself well for the struggle with the German Trinity.
Because Albert Biermann, an engineer who is responsible for developing the challengers, knows what is important for German company car drivers - after all, he used to be the head of technology at BMW M GmbH.