By on February 13, 2017

2016 Lexus RX450h

December is typically a peak month for automotive sales, especially among premium brands. With more holiday-themed ads than the majority of its competition, Lexus always sees the year’s final month of sales as its best. However, it did so well last December that January saw a 26 percent drop in sales due to an exhausted supply of sport utility vehicles.

With the narrowest of exceptions for the LX, last December turned out to be the best month in the history of all of Lexus’ SUVs. The bad news is that most of those sales came at the expense of the automaker’s sedans, which saw comparatively low sales. At around 41,000 units, December 2016 wasn’t all that much different from 2015. However, cars made up a significantly smaller piece of that pie.

Lexus’ LS and GS faired particularly poorly against December 2015’s monthly sales, with the GS only managing 1,325 of the previous year’s 3,423 units.

Jeff Bracken, general manager of the Japanese Luxury brand, told Automotive News that he partially faults the LS engine swap (no, not that kind) for its lackluster sales. “If there’s a question, it’s the V6 twin turbo,” Bracken explained. “I think there are still some journalists that are like “Nah, but it isn’t a V8.'”

The company downplays the V6 on its website, going so far as to highlight the old model’s V8 engine in the preliminary menu. However, that LS-specific issue doesn’t account for the overall sedan sales slump or why the company was in such short supply of SUVs last month — changing consumer preferences do. Sales of Lexus utility vehicles comprised about half of last month’s below-anticipated volume, while Bracken admits that the overall market was around 65 percent.

Bracken wants to see Lexus get RXs and GXs back onto lots to meet demand, however, he doesn’t anticipate supplies to normalize until at least March.

[Image: Toyota Motor Corp.]

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45 Comments on “December Sales Were so Good That Lexus Ran Out of SUVs in January...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Never underestimate the appeal of an ugly vehicle.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    I cannot understand the appeal of this vehicle, the front end and that grill remind me of a basking shark with its mouth open consuming plankton or a catfish-take your pick. But then as H.L.Menken once observed: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people”.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      I’ll tell you the appeal: it looks as good inside as it looks bad outside. It’s one of the few $50k vehicles you climb into and think “wow this looks more expensive than it is.”

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Yep…..

        There’s really no reason for Lexus exteriors to be so ugly, but BY GAWD do they have the best interior design in the business. If they can just come up with an infotainment interface that isn’t awful they will literally have perfect interiors. I would get a GS350 over a wide range of luxury cars just for the interior alone.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I like the grill treatment on the RX, GS and IS. It’s a bit much on the big truck. I will say that I didn’t like it in pictures but was fine after seeing it in real life.

      The interior is nice. I don’t have much experience with the infotainment system so I’ll yield to the opinions above.

      Take all of that and add in Lexus quality and reliability and why would you not choose this?

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Well the good news is at least Lexus doesn’t have to stock up on replacement body parts, because they already look busted.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    “December to Remember”

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    You go chase volume Lexus. Ask Cadillac how that played out for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Completely different players.

      Last year we made it a December to Remember and got my wife a 2015 RX to replace her continually unreliable Ford Edge. I like the subtle design of the last gen, but the new one’s interior is an upgrade in every dimension.

      My MIL is on her 3rd RX – she has a long commute and trades in every 5 years/250k. Besides the usual maintenance (tires, brakes, battery), no issues ever. Strong trade-in value as well. I don’t see chasing small increments of increased volume affecting that.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Is Lexus chasing volume or is volume chasing Lexus?

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Lexus RX doesn’t have a GMC Denali problem, bumping it back door with the same engine.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Actually, Cadillac’s problem is not (yet) chasing volume (as they don’t have a full crossover lineup, a crossover lineup that is composed of less expensive FWD-based crossovers).

      Lexus has plans to add at least 2 more FWD-based crossovers; Cadillac will still be stuck on 1 for a couple more years.

      And ironically, when it comes to selling “luxury” sedans (sedans starting in the $45k+ range), Cadillac sells a lot more than Lexus.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Damn! That would be *so* beautiful with a modest little ovoid or rounded trapezoidal grille!

    Lexus SUVs have a poise and balance like nothing else and I’ve never seen an SUV I didn’t like.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      My parents’ 09 RX350 is the most laid back and cathartic driving experience ever. Last generation before substantial cost cutting on the interior and inclusion of a stupid “flying butress” center console. Theirs has individual captains chair armrests. Soft, super quiet, the 2GR V6 just oozes along on a wave of creamy torque. Night driving is excellent with the swiveling headlights linked to the steering wheel. I used to deride them as useless soccer mom rides, but frankly I’d prefer it over most other vehicles for a road trip.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        I think I’ve echoed your sentiment re: the RX 350 in other threads, gtemnykh. I borrowed my parents’ ’08 for a couple of road trips, and I really liked it. I’ll add that the interior materials in the 3rd-gen are a slight step down from those in the 2nd-gen, though perhaps not enough for most people to notice.

        My parents actually downsized to an NX 200t, which is more right-sized for them. Quick impressions:
        – Much more nimble than an RX around town–which you’d expect given the comparative footprints–but still a very good highway vehicle.
        – Interior materials are an incremental step down from the 3rd-gen RX. To what degree this reflects smaller margins for a smaller vehicle or a general decline in all Lexii is unclear to me. I’d have to take a look at a 4th-gen RX to get a better sense. They’re still decent materials in an absolute sense, but they lag behind Lexii of 10-15 years ago. Assembly quality remains excellent.
        – Room is fantastic for four adults. The rear seat is quite narrow, so that roominess goes out the window when a 5th passenger enters the mix. It’s also unfortunate that the NX uses sister model RAV4’s idiotic center-rear seat belt design. But for four passengers, the NX is great. The rear seat has a rake adjustment, but it lacks the RX’s fore-aft adjustment.
        – The 8AR does indeed lag behind the 2GR in refinement and linear power delivery. That said, it’s a terrific engine in an absolute sense. It’s powerful when you need it to be but sips fuel in pseudo-Atkinson mode when you’re loafing. It’s powering a smaller vehicle, granted, but our economy is up 5-6 mpg on the highway and 7-9 mpg in the city. (Those are true city numbers, not the EPA’s suburban-skewed “city” numbers.) We’ll see how durable the engine is. I’m cautiously optimistic, based on the lack of internet complaints about (1) the Prius’ pseudo-Atkinson technology and (2) Toyota’s other dual-injected engines. We’ll see.
        – The infotainment touchpad is pretty bad, a definite step backwards from the joystick in the 3rd-gen RX’s. But hey, a journo or two has declared it better because newer is better [eyes rolling].
        – I strongly dislike Lexus’ new design language, but the NX doesn’t look as bad in person as it does in photos. Also, it wears the design language better than the 4th-gen RX does. Damning with faint praise, I realize.
        – Worst features aside from the center-rear seat belt and the styling? The rear wiper. It’s motor is pretty darn noisy. At least it’s a bottom-pivot, which makes it easier to clean under the rear spoiler. And the front headrests. For US market cars, they’re set too far forward in an effort to game safety testing, which in the US seem to put a premium on keeping Slouchy McSlouch safe. They’re fine for around town driving, but for an all-day drive they’re uncomfortable for people with decent posture. The F-sport and foreign markets apparently get a better, adjustable design.
        – Best features? Probably the door seals and the underhood sound insulation. That sounds silly, but they’re both excellent. The 8AR isn’t too rough, but the valvetrain (like that for pretty much any DI or dual-injected I4) is pretty darn noisy if you pop the hood. Lexus did a great job in hiding this fact.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Let me see if I get this correct…the V-8 powered LS sold poorly because the new one, which isn’t out yet, has a V-6?

    That’s nonsense. The real reasons? Cadillac CT6 and Lincoln Continental, and probably the latter more than the former.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I saw my first Continental in the metal yesterday in black in a long term Airport parking lot in Albuquerque. I like it even more in person than in pictures. It will definitely steal some sales for folks who care more about the way the car looks than which wheels are driven.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        …and I don’t think LS drivers would care about that one bit.

        But if you get inside both cars, you’ll quickly find out why the LS sells for more. The Continental has that whiff of cheap thing going on.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      I snooped around a Continental a couple weeks ago when I stopped at a Ford store to look at the Escape.

      If the Conti’s grille isn’t plastic it sure looks like plastic. And I was rooting for it to be an awesome car simply for old time’s sake.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I think it *looks* awesome.

        For me, it just didn’t have the detail and feel I’d expect of a car in this price range. And from what I’ve read, the driving experience needs quite a bit of work.

        • 0 avatar
          OldManPants

          What was most striking to me was its similarity to the MKZ alongside it.

          Looking at their comparable design details I realized that there were only a few of those to compare as CAFE/styling has mandated the smooth, featureless, eroded pebble look for everything but front and rear clips.

          I was unexpectedly upset for someone who scoffs at luxury vehicles. I really wanted to salute that thing.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            The resemblance to a MKZ is more than skin deep, OMP. Both are on the same platform.

          • 0 avatar
            OldManPants

            That’s not special enough for the car that Oliver Wendell Douglas drove into Hooterville!

          • 0 avatar
            SP

            Lincoln inflicted that wound on itself, when they moved the Continental’s “design language” downmarket onto the MKZ … before the Continental was available for purchase! So dumb. Also, in so doing, they made the MKZ look worse, in my opinion, because now it looks like a mishmash of different front and rear design programs. An all around bad move.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          The Conti starts at $44.7k whereas the $72.5k – quite the spread, so think the Conti is perfectly fine with regards to its level of detail and feel for its price-point (the Conti competes more with the likes of the XTS and RLX than the LS or the CT6).

          For Conti buyers who want greater interior refinement – can opt for the Black Label package, but at that price-point, have more options (but that’s w/o getting all the latest tech, unlike on the Conti which would be fully-loaded).

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    With the higher margin on the SUVs, does Lexus really have a complaint? Only the dealers who sold out their SUV inventory have a problem.

  • avatar
    Rday

    So many women i know will not buy anything but a lexus. Don’t understand it but lexus has done an excellent job with woman. I just buy toyotas because they are less expensive and deliver about the same handling/driving experience. But i think image must account for lexus and cadillac/lincoln sales, along with bmw, audi and mercedes. But lexus is the only one that has the bullet proof reliability and maybe resale compared to the others. Women can be very shrewd buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      There is a monumental step change in interior quality from a Toyota to a Lexus. Toyota is one of, IMO, the worst in the game for cheesey plastics and somewhat crappy styling*, and Lexus is one of the absolute best.

      *I’d still buy some of their vehicles anyways; looking at you 4Runner…

      • 0 avatar
        whitworth

        “Toyota is one of, IMO, the worst in the game for cheesey plastics and somewhat crappy styling*, and Lexus is one of the absolute best.

        *I’d still buy some of their vehicles anyways; looking at you 4Runner…”

        _______

        Agree completely.
        Even “expensive” Toyota models have awful interiors. Like a Sequoia.

        I may go to a Lexus GX instead of a 4Runner almost exclusively over the interior, even though I far prefer the 4Runner on the outside.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          The 4Runner’s interior is plenty decent since the ’14 refresh, at least on par with what a $35k 4wd truck should have IMO.

          To S2K Chris’ comment, it’s really sad because looking back at say the early 90s, a Camry and an ES are pretty darn close in terms of material quality and nice touches. The ES has a bit of real wood on the lower console, but in terms of door cards and such they are both very good. These days both have degraded quite a bit, although with the latest update (2015) the Camry got a lot better than it was. The current ES is not great once you get to the back seat or look at the bottoms of the door cards, but there’s hope Toyota is back on a bit of an upswing.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “Even “expensive” Toyota models have awful interiors. Like a Sequoia.”

          Unfortunately true. The Sequoia’s interior is a friggin’ embarrassment. The Tundra is a little better since the refresh. The 4Runner is a little better still, but could stand further improvement–it compares favorably to most other trucks but the Grand Cherokee is its direct competitor and that is in another league entirely.

          Those Toyotas are at the old, old end of the model cycle and harken back to the Dark Ages of the late-2000s when Toyota inexplicably forgot that their quality interiors used to be a selling point. Their newer models have been going back in the right direction there.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        My wife actually loved the driving experience of the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid, but the ridiculous level of interior cheapness of the XLE demo we drove turned us both off the car completely. The 2013 Subaru Forester by Fisher-Price we owned at the time actually looked a lot nicer inside.

        She really liked the NX hybrid — which totally fixes the interior quality issue — but at the time they were unobtainium either new or used, and actually cost more than a RXh used. The prices just didn’t make sense.

        She didn’t like the RX hybrid; complained it felt too big and heavy. She said “I know it’s a lot faster than the NX if you floor it, but it actually feels slower and less responsive.”

        So we just decided not to buy at the time, and then ended up leasing a C-Max Energi a few months later because it was electric, cheap to lease, and she liked the drive.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          Why is the entire world pushing me into considering a C-Max Energi lease? My wife likes the size of her (older) RX, but I can’t help but notice she asks me to drive it any time hunting for rare parallel parking spots is part of the trip.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Because for as long as the combination of tax credits (rolled into the lease) and heavy manufacturer incentives lasts, leasing a C-Max Energi is a screaming deal for what you get. I’m paying $309/month for mine, and if we had skipped a few goodies (ours has every option) it could have been quite a bit less.

          • 0 avatar
            SP

            Lightly used C-Max Energi is a very good deal as well. Finance it right and you can own one with under 30k miles for less than $300/month.

  • avatar
    SELECTIVE_KNOWLEDGE_MAN

    So that is the line they are running with?

    If Lexus had a shortage of SUV’s, then why was it impossible to sway customers into the sedans? Both the IS, ES and GS we refreshed in the last year (or so) and the RC is a new platform. All of these cars sold poorly as well. This January was brutal for Lexus, absolutely brutal, and if you believe that it was only due to a great December, then so be it. On a global scale Lexus lost market share to the main rivals last year, and with the LC and LS being as low volume as they are, Lexus can look out for the worst sales numbers in a decade.

  • avatar
    zip94513

    I call BULL on an exhausted SUV supply. The two dealers closest to me have 303 SUV’s in stock.

  • avatar
    incautious

    Fugly. I don’t get it, The Venza was way better looking and the the Toyota faithful stayed away in droves.


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