CAFE Case Study: Lexus NX Gets Different Fascia To Qualify As "Light Truck"

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
cafe case study lexus nx gets different fascia to qualify as light truck

Although we’ve covered CAFE and its effects on the new car market before, the launch of the Lexus NX provides us with an interesting example of just how far auto makers will go to have their offerings classified as “light trucks” under the U.S. regulatory scheme which incentivizes manufacturers to offer these sorts of vehicles beyond mere market forces.

To recap quickly, CAFE splits vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) under 8,500 lbs into two categories: cars and light trucks. Each vehicle has a “footprint” formula based on the vehicle size, with fuel economy targets it must meet. These are added up to a “fleet average” for each manufacturer, and there are a whole host of byzantine rules regarding “credits” for different technologies, like start-stop systems, hybrids and EVs that can be applied. They key concept here is that two vehicles can be the same “footprint”, but the “light truck” has to meet a fuel economy standard that is less stringent than the “car” standard. This ( along with market forces) has been one reason why crossovers have become such a prominent segment in the American auto market.

As the crew at Top Gear Philippines discovered, the Lexus NX doesn’t just meet the standard of being a “light truck” by virtue of its approach angle. The solution is a different fascia for North American markets, such as the one shown above. Compare that to the one below, which has a “fuller”, square-jawed appearance.

The change in fascia isn’t the most onerous hurdle to overcome, but it does illustrate the fickle nature of the regulations, and how far auto makers will go to meet them – and exploit the various loopholes contained within.

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  • Sigivald Sigivald on Aug 06, 2014

    Loophole. Noun. "Law the speaker doesn't like."

    • Niky Niky on Aug 08, 2014

      To be strictly accurate, a loophole is not a law. It's a clause written into a law that contradicts the stated purpose of that law. You don't have to dislike a loophole to point it out, or to point out that the law doesn't actually achieve what it purports to do.

  • Excellentdriver Excellentdriver on Aug 07, 2014

    The top picture is the base NX...the bottom is the hybrid (same look with the F-Sport package). Both are American versions. The whole point of this article is wrong.

  • NormSV650 I had a 2014 Vsport back in the day. It have a quiver feeling over some bumps in turns. Currently have a 2018 CT6 it is very solid and a great driver's car for the size.
  • NormSV650 I had a 2014 Vsport back in the day. It have a quiver feeling over some bumps in turns. Currently have a 2018 CT6 it is very solid and a great driver's car for the size.
  • MaintenanceCosts I saw my first IS500 out in the wild today (a dark-grey-on-black example) and it struck me that it was much more AMG-like than this product. (Great-looking and -sounding car.)
  • ToolGuy https://youtu.be/Jd0io1zktqI
  • Art Vandelay Props for trying something different. EVs should work well in this sort of race. The similar series running ICE run short distances like that
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