U.S. Dealers Plead for a Smaller Lexus Crossover

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
u s dealers plead for a smaller lexus crossover

If American dealers get their way, Lexus’ planned subcompact crossover — first shown in concept form last year — won’t be the strictly Europe-focused proposition the brand’s parent company intended.

The UX concept, introduced at the 2016 Paris Auto Show, shares its architecture with the Toyota C-HR and is already scheduled for production. We’ll see the model debut in Geneva next March. Lexus Europe is positioning the model as a new entry point for the brand’s utility lineup, designed to appeal to urbanites used to navigating tight spaces.

But European city-dwellers aren’t the only ones who took notice of the UX concept. Dealers in the U.S. are clamoring for a chance to bulk up their growing lineup with something small. It’s something Lexus is now considering.

“Our dealers are all over us to produce that concept vehicle,” said Jeff Bracken, general manager of Toyota Motor Sales USA’s Lexus division, in an interview with Wards Auto.

“We’re in the process of helping our company understand what we’re leaving on the table” by not having a premium subcompact offering in the United States, he added.

Subcompact crossovers, especially premium ones, do not generate the volume of, say, a Lexus NX or RX model. The 52.1-percent growth figure quoted by Wards for the premium subcompact crossover segment (through November) includes the Chevrolet Bolt, which isn’t everyone’s idea of a proper crossover, nor a premium one. Still, there is some volume to be had in the segment, and even some growth. Sales of BMW’s X1 are up over 11 percent this year.

Looking at last week’s L.A. Auto Show, it’s clear Lexus wants to squeeze as many sales as possible from its existing model line. A three-row RX350 variant and an LX with fewer seats speaks to this effort. It’s not hard to see the company giving in to dealer demands, as long as head office can be assured of competitive volume.

Compared to such visually bland offerings as the X1, Audi Q3, and Mercedes-Benz GLA, the UX could make its sales case on style alone. That said, we still don’t know what the actual production UX looks like. While it’ll surely share the TNGA platform used by various late-model Toyota products, Lexus could go a much different route than the vehicle seen last year in Paris. Telltale styling cues, including the world-swallowing grille, will surely remain.

Lexus sales shrunk by 6.7 percent in the U.S. last month, but the problem did not lie in small and midsize crossovers. RX sales remained more or less flat, coming in just 167 units lower than last November’s tally. Meanwhile, sales of the compact NX rose 5.5 percent for a new November record.

[Image: Lexus Europe]

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  • Kyree Kyree on Dec 04, 2017

    Lexus also quietly released a version of the GX, either this year or last year, called the Sport package. You get captain's chairs in the middle row (making it a six-seater), unique bumpers with satin silver trim, an exposed exhaust tip and unique smoked-out headlamps and tail-lamps.

  • Pete Zaitcev Pete Zaitcev on Dec 06, 2017

    I'm looking very closely at Evoque and XC40 at this time, but I'm not onboard with a rebadged C-HR. Both of the previous contenders offer a plausible offroadability, in case of Evoque thanks to the (in)famous ZF 9-speed. But C-HR does not even have AWD. Does not meet requirements, pass. The NX is much too large, BTW. I had one as a rental and it was barely possible to navigate. I have to say that Evoque is not much narrower. What I really want is some kind of luxury Crosstrek with even lower gearing. But that does not exist.

  • Readallover I always found it hilarious that my parents`friends who paid up for the luxury and exclusivity of a M-B were shocked and disappointed when they went to Europe and found their car was significantly cheaper AND widely used as cabs over there.
  • Laszlo I own a 1969 falcon futura 4 door hardtop, original inline 6 and c4 transmission and it still runs to this day.
  • BklynPete So let's get this straight: Ford hyped up the Bronco for 3 years, yet couldn't launch it to match the crazy initial demand. They released it with numerous QC issues, made hay for its greedy dealers, and burned customers in the process. After all that, they lose money on warranties. The vehicles turn out to be a worse ownership experience than the Jeep Wrangler, which hasn't been a paragon of reliability for 50 years. The same was true of the Aviator, Explorer, several F-150 variants, and other recent product launches. The Maverick is the only thing they got right. Yet this company that's been at it for 120 years. Just Brilliant. Jim Farley's non-PR speak: "You don't get to call me an idiot. I get to call myself an idiot first."Farley truly seems hapless, like the characters his late cousin played. Bill Ford is a nice guy but more than a bit slow on the uptake too. They have not had anything resembling a quality CEO since Alan Mulally turned the keys over to Mark Fields - the mulleted glamor boy who got canned after 3 years when the PowerShi(f)t transaxles exploded. He more recently helped run Hertz into the ground with bad QC and a faulty database that had them arresting customers. Ford is starting to resemble Chrysler in the mid-Seventies Sales Bank era. Well, at least VW has cash and envies Ford's distribution reach and potential profitability.
  • Mike Beranek This guy called and wants his business model back.
  • SCE to AUX The solid state battery is vaporware.As for software-limited pack capacity: Batteries are obviously the most expensive component of an EV, so on the rare occasion that pack capacity is dramatically limited (as in your 6-year-old example), it's because economies of scale briefly made sense at the time.Mfrs are not in the habit of overbuilding pack capacity just for fun, and then charging the customer less.Since then, pack capacities have been slightly increased via software because the mfr decides they can sacrifice a little bit of the normal safety/wear margin in the interest of range. We're talking single-digit percentages, not the 60/75 kWh jump in your example.Every pack has maybe 10% margin built into it, so eating into that today (via range increases) means it's not available to make up for battery degradation tomorrow. My 4-year-old EV still has its original range(s) and 100% SOH, but that's surely because it is slowly consuming the margin built into the pack.@Matt Posky: Not everything is a conspiracy to get your credit card account, and the lengthy editorial about this has nothing to do with solid state batteries.
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