Lexus Promises 'Flagship' Crossover Concept in Detroit; Is There Room for Another Model in the Lineup?
Toyota’s luxury division isn’t in the habit of leaving certain vehicle segments wide open for other automakers to plunder. Lexus fields not one, but two sport coupes, just in case one of the few buyers not interested in sedans and SUVs wanders into the dealership.
In the utility vehicle department, it seems Lexus has all bases covered, Or at least it soon will. There’s the compact NX crossover, the midsize RX (soon to be available in a longer, three-row variant), the midsize, body-on-frame GX, and the range-topping, BOF LX full-sizer (now with fewer seats, should you prefer it). There’s even a possibility of a subcompact Lexus utility in the near future.
So, what exactly is Lexus missing? A “flagship” crossover, it seems.
The automaker claims its LF-1 Limitless concept “reflects the next genre in luxury crossover vehicles,” and will debut at next month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Sporting a body sculpted by the CALTY design studio in California, the vehicle is described by Lexus as “a flagship crossover that redefines the boundaries of luxury.”
Lexus provided a teaser shot appearing to show a two-row vehicle with a one-piece, wraparound taillight, split spoiler, and sharply angled rear glass. A strong character line appears to flow forward to parts unseen.
The only other takeaways from the image are a glass roof and media screens for rear-seat passengers. It’s impossible to gauge the vehicle’s size.
Unpacking Lexus’ brief description, are we to assume the brand has designs to offer an ultra-lux model in the unibody crossover segment? Certainly, it seems everything that could be done with crossover vehicles, has been. Over at BMW and Mercedes-Benz, German designers and engineers can’t stop turning utility vehicles into four-door coupes, endowing other variants with ridiculous levels of M- and AMG-supplied power.
What untapped pool of potential buyers does Lexus have in mind? Or is this concept just a design exercise and technology showcase meant to inspire the brand’s next-generation models? (If so, why use the word “genre,” which implies a new class, or category? Why bolster it with the word “flagship”?)
So many questions, so few answers. Should Lexus decide to add a new addition to its lineup, it would do so knowing full well where its bread is buttered. Lexus passenger car sales fell 20.1 percent in November, year-over-year. Over the first 11 months of this year, the brand’s U.S. car volume shrank by 22.4 percent.
Crossovers and SUVs, on the other hand, are keeping the lights on at Lexus HQ. Despite a pretty flat month in the industry, and with no new or refreshed model to spice things up, sales of Lexus crossovers and SUVs rose 1.2 percent, year-over-year, in November. Sales are up 4 percent YTD in 2017.
Adding another utility vehicle would surely mean a segment with two Lexus offerings. Still, if price points diverged enough, one vehicle wouldn’t necessarily cannibalize the other (though higher-end models in the lineup might get worried). As we told you yesterday, doubling up in a segment is not something Toyota’s worried about.
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Just like the RX L, this will print money for Lexus and they should have done it a decade ago. The LX and GX both have a great image among rich moms, but really aren't that practical for the intended use. The floor is high, cargo space is very limited, the third row gets in the way when stowed (especially on the LX), and the driving experience is very trucklike. But the RX just doesn't cut it as an image car. It's OK, but it's too cheap to really make a statement. Lexus will absolutely clean up with a proper three-row unibody crossover, based on a stretched and widened RX/Highlander platform, and priced in the $70k range to start. It will compete straight across with the current Audi Q7 and the BMW X7, just a bit downmarket from the Benz GLS.
There's definitely room at the top of Lexus's CUV lineup for a true full-size model (not just a 3-row midsize like the RX-L).